To keep you, your boat and your family safe on the water, you’ll need the right equipment and knowledge. This safe boating guide should get you ready to set out with confidence and peace of mind – optimizing your boat safety and preparing you for possible dangers.
Boat safety equipment and gear
In order to operate your boat, there’s mandatory boat safety gear you’ll need to carry on deck. There are also many other items of boat safety equipment that are highly recommended. From emergency beacons to firefighting equipment, adhering to boat safety kit requirements will give you lifesaving solutions to any problems you may face.
If you enjoy watersports and other water-based activities – deep-sea fishing, skiing, paddling, or tubing – never underestimate the importance of a life jacket! This essential piece of safety equipment saves lives, so be sure to choose one that’s SAMSA-approved, fits comfortably, and is designed for your type of water activity. Here’s what you should know before getting onto a boat without one.
Life jacket regulations in South Africa
The South African Marine Safety Authority (SAMSA) has a set of life jacket requirements for seagoing, extreme offshore, inland, and close-to-shore conditions, all of which must carry the SAMSA approval.
A level 275 life jacket is required for extreme water conditions, and provides enough buoyancy to support users wearing additional clothing or weights. It’s designed to keep the wearer in the correct position with their mouth and nose clear of the water surface
Level 150 life jackets – for general seagoing applications and instances where the wearer has extra clothing on in extreme weather conditions. The jacket should automatically turn an unconscious wearer into a safe position.
Level 100 where a quick rescue can occur in calm or sheltered waters. The jacket should support the wearer’s head, and turn an unconscious person face up
Level 50 – For limited use in inland water and must be used by competent swimmers. This life jacket is ideal for waterskiing, jet-skiing, yachting, canoeing, etc.
Life jacket accessories
Accessories such as emergency lights, multi-chamber systems, and overpressure relief valves will apply for certain commercial vessels, pleasure, or passenger vessels operating outside a harbour or at night. However, all levels of life jacket must be fitted with:
- Retro-reflective tape on the front and back and placed high for visibility (excluding inflatable life jackets)
- Centre lifting loop
How should a life jacket fit?
Once you decide on the type of life jacket required, it’s time to choose the right fit. A general rule of thumb – the more straps the jacket has, the easier it is to customise to the contours of your body, adding more comfort.
Adults – The right fit for an adult is based on chest size and not weight, so measure your chest! The jacket should fit snuggly but comfortably and allow for easy arm movement.
Children – The size is based on the child’s actual weight – for example, an infant life jacket will suit a small child ranging between 3.6 -13.5kgs, a child size 13.5–22kgs, and a youth size 25–40kgs. Ensure the jacket is a comfortable fit and be sure to check that the jacket is not too big for the child – if their chin or ears slip through, the jacket is too big.
Taking care of your life jacket
Your life jacket can provide you with many years of water safety so:
Rinse with water after each use and allow it to dry thoroughly
Store in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight
Keep sharp objects away from the life jacket to prevent unnecessary damage or punctures
Some weather conditions are terrible for certain boating activities and play a huge role in safe boating. This is why it’s important to understand ideal boating weather and to plan your trip before you leave.
Ski boat safety tips
Remember, as the skipper, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers, as well as that of people in other water craft and in the water. Use your ski boat in a safe and sensible manner by:
- Never consuming alcohol before or whilst operating your ski boat – alcohol consumption is a leading contributor to drowning and other boating accidents, like collisions or running aground
- Ensuring that the boat has adequate fuel and additional fuel reserves before launching
- Being aware of ‘NO WAKE ZONES’ – only speeding up once past shoreline or harbour line buoys
- Driving the boat responsibly at all times and not exceeding the speed safety limit
- Never transporting more persons than the maximum allowed on the ski boat
- Ensuring there are enough life jackets for you and each passenger, and that everyone wears them when onboard, in case of capsizing or falling overboard
- Checking the condition of ski/tow ropes
- Ensuring that passengers water skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, etc., are wearing approved life jackets
- Observing passengers being towed behind the ski boat
- Displaying a 500 millimetre red flag in an upright position to alert other vessels when passengers are preparing to ski, or when a skier is down in the water
- Immediately reducing speed when a skier is down, and retrieving them from the water as soon as you can.
Tips for Avoiding Boating Accidents
With regular maintenance, your ski boat will keep its good looks, perform well and provide you and your family with years of fun. Not only that, but maintaining a boat in peak condition helps prevent boating accidents and mishaps – just like cars on the road, poorly maintained boats are a hazard on the water. Remember to:
- Check the boat’s fuel and oil levels before starting the engine. Drain old fuel or add a fuel cleaner and stabilizer.
- Check the boat’s propeller for any signs of damage
- Check for any loose wires, worn or damaged parts
- To prevent corrosion and staining, clean and wipe your boat after use, especially if it’s been in sea water
- Drain any water from the engine after use
- Change engine filters and oil, and lubricate bearings and seals once a year
- When not in use, protect your boat from harsh UV rays with a good quality boat cover.
Suzuki wishes you and your family a fun and incident-free boating experiences. Contact any Suzuki authorized Suzuki dealer in your area for expert advice on boating and boating safety, and to stock up on the necessary boating accessories.