We are lucky to live on a beautiful bay off Puget Sound here in Bellingham. The views of the islands and the mountains are breathtaking. Also, Whatcom County lakes can’t be beat for a calm ride on a canoe, or a day coasting on Lake Whatcom. Even on the calmest, clearest day, however, boating can pose risks to even the most experienced boater. If you’re heading west on the water, read these tips first.

Make a Pre-Departure Checklist

It’s enough to remember to bring all the snacks, but there’s a whole lot more that you’re going to need out on the water. To ensure you’ve got all the right tools and safety equipment, save yourself the brain drain and make a list. You must have flotation devices, fire extinguishers, water, and food and beverages. Here is a great, standard list to start with.

Be Weather-Aware

If you’re going camping, be bear aware. On the water, weather may be your biggest nuisance or nemesis. Check the forecast before you go. If you might face conditions that would prove too adversarial for your skill level or enjoyment, stay in and wait until the skies clear. 

Don’t Drink and Operate a Boat

Sure, boating and drinking seem to go hand in hand. However, it is illegal in Washington State to operate a boat while drunk. Called a BUI, there are serious penalties if you are busted, and most likely, if you get busted, something went wrong. Also, keep in mind that the sun can increase the effects of alcohol in your system, which can further hamper your ability to captain a boat or be aware of your surroundings to be a safe passenger. You might think you know your limits, but the sun may alter them. Always make sure you at least have a sober captain. 

Boat Maintenance

A well maintained boat is a safer boat. Keep up with the recommended maintenance, and promptly repair parts that need it. Also, keep in mind that, in the event of a boating accident, if you can show record of proper maintenance, you can help prevent a successful lawsuit against you for negligence.

Avoid Reckless Driving

Don’t show off in front of your friends, and just because there aren’t speed limits posted doesn’t mean there are no rules. In fact, you can be cited for many of the same infractions on the water just as you would on land. Reckless driving increases your chances of a boating accident, which will ruin more than your fun. Be safe, be mindful, and be responsible on the water. 

Take a Boat Safety Course

A boat safety course is a great way to educate yourself on proper boating practice, as well as prepare you in case of an emergency situation. Even if you’ve taken a safety course in the past, it can’t hurt to refresh your memory for the upcoming season. Click here for a list of resources, local and online, on boating safety classes

A few more resources to check out for further reading:

Boating Etiquette

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