With the “official” boating season now in full swing, it’s a good time for a refresher on some key tips to keep you and your crew safe this summer. BoatUS recently suggested that boaters pay particular attention to the following:

Life Jackets – Make sure you have enough for every passenger, including the kids, and that all are in good condition and, if you’re not wearing them, within easy reach in an emergency.

VHF Radio – Today’s handhelds are inexpensive, rugged, and may even float. Don’t trust your cell phone; you may not have coverage out on the water. A VHF radio allows you to contact the Coast Guard as well as allows other boaters in the vicinity to hear your call. The latest models (I’ve written about them before) may even incorporate a way for rescuers to pinpoint your position.

Anchor – If you lose engine power, your boat may drift into danger. Not maintaining your position also makes it harder for rescuers to pinpoint your position. Invest in a good anchor, and make sure your rode (anchor line) is in good condition.

Review safety gear – An emergency situation is not the time to discover you don’t have all your safety gear, or that some of it is out-of-date and ineffective. Go over a checklist of must-have items, like signaling devices and fire extinguishers, and take inventory of items like GPS receivers and charts. BoatUS also suggests to make sure your passengers know how to do key things, like operate the VHF radio, and locate fire extinguishers and PFDs.

Get Checked – Worried about your boat or PWC’s condition? Get a free safety check from the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadron; find an examiner near you or take a “virtual” safety check at www.Safetyseal.net.

File a flat plan – It’s simple. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back so that if you’re overdue, someone has an idea on where to tell authorities to look for you. A sample float plan can be found at www.BoatUS.com/seaworthy/floatplan.pdf .