Boating safety expert Aaron Stasiak, who runs the Instagram account The Qualified Captain, has shared eight tips to help people stay safe on the water during the summer boating season. Stasiak warns against bow riding, which involves perching on the front or prow of the boat while it is moving, as it can be dangerous and lead to drowning or injury from the propeller. He also advises people to wear life jackets, avoid drinking alcohol, check the weather forecast, carry a first aid kit, and ensure that the boat has proper safety equipment. Boating accidents claimed the lives of more than 630 people in the US last year.
In light of the recent report by Aaron Stasiak, the man behind the popular Instagram account The Qualified Captain, boating safety is of utmost importance. With more than 630 people dying from boating accidents in the US alone last year, it’s crucial for anyone planning on heading out on the water to bone up on safety procedures.
Stasiak, who has been boating since his teenage years, has accrued quite the following on social media by calling attention to the errors of inexperienced, inebriated, or ill-informed boaters. His Instagram account is more than just a collection of “fail” videos; it’s also a place to find res and links to boating safety classes, a store that stocks things like SPF-rated shirts and waterproof first aid kits, and to learn more about how to use those life rings you sometimes see on posts in marinas.
Heading into summer boating season, Stasiak offered these eight tips to help everyone stay safe on the open water.
No Bow Riding—Ever
Bow riding—the act of perching on the front or prow of the boat while it’s moving—is one of The Qualified Captain’s biggest no-nos. While it might seem fun to have your feet dangling in the water while the boat clips along, it’s actually incredibly dangerous since bow riders can slip off and get sucked underneath the boat into the whirling propeller.
“I’ve seen it happen,” says Stasiak. “If they fall over, they’re going to get sunk right under, and the prop is like a spinning, giant razor blade. It’ll slice you up. People don’t believe me, but I’ve got the pictures and the videos for them to see.”
Stasiak says it’s especially important to keep kids away from the bow of the boat, as they’re more likely to take risks and not fully understand the danger.
Wear Life Jackets
It might seem obvious, but wearing a life jacket is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay safe on the water. In light of the recent report by Stasiak, most boating fatalities happen because people weren’t wearing life jackets.
“You don’t have to wear it all the time, but when the boat is moving, you should have it on,” he says. “Even if you’re a good swimmer, if you get knocked out or something, it’s going to be hard to swim with all your clothes on.”
Check the Weather
Before you head out on the water, make sure to check the weather forecast. Storms can pop up quickly and unexpectedly, and being caught in rough waters can be dangerous.
“People think they can outrun the storm, but you can’t,” says Stasiak. “It’s better to just head back to shore and wait it out.”
Know Your Boat
Every boat is different, and it’s important to know the ins and outs of the vessel you’re operating. Make sure you know how to start the engine, how to steer, and how to operate any other important equipment, like the radio or GPS.
“Don’t just assume you know how to use everything,” says Stasiak. “Take the time to learn, and if you’re not sure about something, ask someone who does.”
Drinking and boating don’t mix. In light of the recent report by Stasiak, alcohol is a factor in about a third of all boating fatalities.
“Just like with driving a car, you need to be sober when you’re operating a boat,” he says. “Save the drinking for when you’re back on land.”
Keep a Proper Lookout
When you’re out on the water, it’s important to keep a proper lookout for other boats, obstacles, and potential hazards. Stasiak recommends designating someone on board as the official lookout, and making sure they’re paying attention at all times.
“Don’t assume that other boaters are going to see you,” he says. “Keep an eye out for them, and make sure they see you too.”
Have Proper Safety Equipment
In addition to life jackets, it’s important to have other safety equipment on board, like flares, a fire extinguisher, and a first aid kit. Make sure everything is in good working order and easily accessible.
“Hopefully you’ll never need to use any of it, but it’s better to be prepared,” says Stasiak.
Take a Boating Safety Course
Finally, Stasiak recommends taking a boating safety course before heading out on the water. Many states require boaters to take a safety course before they obtain a boating license, but even if it’s not required where you live, it’s still a good idea to brush up on your knowledge.
“Boating is supposed to be fun, but it’s also serious business,” says Stasiak. “Take the time to learn how to do it safely, and you’ll have a much better time out on the water.”