Boaters must be their own best lifeguard

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Never dive head-first into a body of water before confirming the water depth. Never dive head-first into a body of water before confirming the water depth.

Seven safety tips for swimming while boating

Boating and swimming go hand in hand, but unlike a public pool or beach, boaters can’t count on a lifeguard to watch over them. As this summer’s sweltering heat drives more boaters to dive into the deep blue, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety offers these seven swimming tips:

1. Always make sure the engine is off before going in the water. The best way to do this is to remove the key from the ignition and leave it in plain view so everyone knows it won’t start.

2. At marinas, stray electric current from poorly maintained boat electrical and shore power systems can kill swimmers. Three separate marina electrocution incidents over the July Fourth holiday left four children and one adult dead and injured several others who had tried to come to their rescue.

3. Never dive in head first before confirming the water depth. Mistakenly diving into a shallow, mucky bottom may simply leave you bruised and looking like the creature of black lagoon, but diving into hard sandy bottom, a rock or underwater obstruction could put you in a wheelchair. Deploy a boarding ladder first and ease yourself in to confirm water depth.

4. Never swim alone. If you are in the middle of the lake and swimming alone, there is no safety backstop in case you have a problem – which could be nearby boaters unaware of you.

5. It is always a good idea to have a life jacket or floating seat cushion close by (and tied to the boat) that swimmers can easily reach while in the water, or simply hang a dock line over the side. And even if you are a good swimmer, wearing a life jacket while in the water adds extra insurance against drowning.

6. Never swim under a boat’s swim platform or near any boat with the engine running. You could strike the running gear or fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning; it only takes a few whiffs of CO to leave swimmers incapacitated or unconscious. Also stay away from generator exhaust ports.

7. When boats and swimmers collide, boats always win. Avoid swimming in navigation channels or marinas. Also never swim in area with strong river or tidal currents, which can swiftly sweep swimmers away from the boat.

Courtesy of BoatUS. For more information on boating safety programs from the BoatUS Foundation, such as the free Online Boating Safety Course or free Kid’s Life Jacket Loaner Program, go to 

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