Rigid Inflatable Boat Safety Tips
There’s no better way to make lifelong memories with your friends and family than on your own boat. Nothing compares to warm afternoons with the kids swimming and the adults enjoying the bright sun and a refreshing drink. That being said, the top priority in any boating adventure should be safety. And while a seaworthy vessel is the first step, there’s no substitute for safety knowledge and thorough preparation.
If you’re looking for a vessel that can handle it all, remember that rigid inflatable boats are hands-down the safest option for any boating adventure. Trusted by the Navy Seals, law enforcement and professionals of all marine sectors, they’re unparalleled in performance and hardiness.
Learn more about essential boating safety tips and preparations that will have you ready for any RIB adventure. Once you have the basics down, you can rest easy and keep your cool in any situation.
Learn the Ins and Outs of Operating Your Boat
Before you take the whole family out for a weekend on the water, it’s a good idea to learn all the details of your boat. If a situation arises in which you need to use safety equipment quickly, you should already know exactly where it is and how to use it. Just like crew members do on commercial vessels, we recommend trying mock safety drills so that you can work out any kinks beforehand.
After learning about your vessel and your safety equipment, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for safe boating:
- Take a boat handling and safety course: These courses are invaluable for new boaters — you quickly learn the best techniques for using your boat from seasoned professionals instead of through years on your own learning the hard way. You gain knowledge that makes you a better boater, and you’ll be prepared for your maiden voyage — you might even meet some like-minded boating friends! According to Coast Guard statistics, the chances of getting into a boating accident are significantly lower if the captain of the boat receives proper safety training.
- Take advantage of a free Coast Guard safety check: Besides using the online safety checklist provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, you can schedule a free vessel inspection by a USCG Auxiliary official — they’ll review your safety equipment onboard, check your vessel’s overall integrity and answer safety questions. It’s a great way to get peace of mind and make sure you’re not forgetting any crucial equipment before heading out. And don’t worry — there are no consequences if your boat doesn’t pass the inspection.
Learning how your boat handles all comes with experience, but there are a few things you can always do to set yourself up for success. Here are a few quick tips for after you’ve prepared yourself and your boat to set out for a day of fun.
Leaving and Landing
When you’re leaving for your journey and returning from it, you should keep some best practices in mind:
- Take it slow when you’re leaving your dock or landing your boat: Use all the time you need to prepare a safe exit or entry, and don’t let other boaters distract you.
- Think about the current: If you’re boating in an ocean harbor, you’ll want to consider what the tide is doing before you land your boat or leave the dock. Depending on if the water is dropping or rising, the current in front of your dock will be different. Check out a tide chart to figure out what the current will be doing beforehand.
- Consider the wind: Consider not only its direction and strength when you leave the dock but also what it could be like when you come back. It’s best to use the wind to your advantage and let it gently push you onto the dock if it’s not too strong.
- Rest assured about your rigid inflatable boat: One great thing about rigid inflatable boats is their inflatable siding. If you happen to come into the dock a little faster than expected and give it a nudge, the inflatable sides will act as a natural cushion, which means you won’t be repairing fiberglass like you would on a hard-hull boat.
Assign a Designated Helper
You’ll need the right people on your side to make sure everyone is safe and sound. Follow these steps:
- Remember that behind every great captain is a great crew: Your spouse or even your kids — if they’re old enough — can help you with docking and handling gear. Letting them is a great way to start teaching them about boating as well as make things easier and safer for you. And when they’re ready, you can ease them into driving the boat. They’ll be on their way to being a great skipper in no time!
- Select and appoint a lookout: Designating one of your passengers to help you keep a lookout is a great way to make sure you don’t miss anything in the water. Kids usually love to be lookouts, and it helps to have an extra set of eyes if you’re traveling through a crowded area or the ocean.
Try Not to Overcrowd Your Boat
Besides not having enough room to stretch out, overcrowding your boat can be a safety hazard if passenger’s movement is restricted. While rigid inflatables have an exceptionally high load capacity, it’s always best to keep walkways clear of guests and gear if possible.
Be Aware of Channel Markers
New boaters sometimes get caught up in the excitement of being on their boat and miss important navigational aids in the water. Be sure to stay within designated channels and keep an eye out for special-purpose buoys that mark hidden features and restricted areas.
Research Your Boating Area
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with where you plan to boat before heading out, as rules and areas to avoid vary by location. Lakes, rivers and ocean harbors often have specific standards that every boater needs to adhere to, and it’s important to be aware of them before you launch. NASBLA — The National Association of State Boating Law Administration — has a reference guide for state-specific boating regulations.
If you’re boating in a new harbor for the first time, ask at the marina about any traffic or obstacles to look out for before you go out, like ferries or shallow areas.
Use caution when exploring new areas, and consult charts. Exploring new places and finding your favorite spot to anchor and swim for the day is the best, but be careful of hidden rocks and other objects. Hidden underwater features are often marked with a buoy in lakes, rivers and harbors, but they may be unmarked and only appear on navigational charts in the ocean. We recommend having navigational charts for any area you plan to explore.
Researching your boating area also means checking the weather — especially if you plan on going in the ocean. Even if your boat is a RIB equipped to handle the rough conditions, you and your passengers probably don’t want a bumpy ride home.
Fortunately, rigid inflatable boats were built for exploring. Their lightweight construction means they go faster and further with less fuel, and the hard-hull and inflatable siding make them virtually unsinkable. Still, it’s crucial that you stay as safe as possible on your journey.
What to Keep Onboard
The U.S. Coast Guard requires every recreational vessel to carry specific life-saving and distress-signaling equipment. The following list includes necessities as well as some additional items that can come in handy:
- PFDs: Personal Flotation Devices — or lifejackets — belong on every boat. You need to have one for every passenger, and they should be easily accessible. Also, you need one throwable flotation device that’s easy to grab, in case someone should fall over.
- Flares or other signaling equipment: While you’re not likely to use them, no boat should be without signaling equipment. If all else fails and you need to alert emergency responders of your location, you’ll find that these devices are essential. Flares need to be under six years old to be legal, but if you have older, expired flares, you can keep them onboard as backups.
- Fire extinguishers: Depending on the size of your vessel, you’ll need at least two Coast-Guard-approved fire extinguishers that are readily accessible.
- An air horn or whistle: In case your boat horn isn’t working or you need something with a little more range, remember that every boat should carry an air horn. It’s a good idea to keep one in the dinghy in case you need to call attention to yourself.
- EPIRB: While it isn’t a Coast Guard requirement for recreational vessels, an Emergency Position-Indicating Radiobeacon may be something you want to carry. They function as a GPS locator that activates with water contact. If someone were to fall overboard in low-visibility conditions, the EPIRB would let rescuers know exactly where they are.
- Navigation lights: Always check your navigational lights before you set out for the day — if you’re out at night, they need to be on so that other boaters can see you. Low visibility and reflections off the water can make seeing an unlit boat very difficult.
- Navigation rules: Commonly referred to as the ‘Rules of the Road,’ this booklet of navigational rules issued by the Coast Guard explains right of way situations and contains a helpful key for navigational aids like buoys and channel markers. Simply having it onboard satisfies the legal Coast Guard requirement, but we recommend all new boaters familiarize themselves with the fundamental right of way situations and navigational aids before setting out.
- A VHF radio: While it isn’t a Coast Guard requirement, we recommend that any boater who goes in the ocean gets a VHF radio. You can communicate with other boaters and hail harbor patrol and towing assistance vessels with it if you need help.
- Navigational charts: A GPS works great, but in case it fails, it’s good to have a backup reference. Navigational charts show relevant information like water depths, hidden underwater features and other areas to be aware of, including commercial shipping lanes and restricted military areas.
- A knife or multitool: Besides being useful for miscellaneous tasks, a knife or multitool for cutting can function as an essential safety tool if you need to cut a line quickly.
- Patch repair kit and a manual pump: Rigid inflatables are virtually unsinkable, even with damage to their inflatable siding, but it’s still a good idea to bring a repair kit and a pump just in case.
For a full list of the safety requirements for recreational boats, check out the complete Coast Guard guide.
Maintaining safety on boats is all about proper behavior — of both the captain and the passengers. When your passengers are aware of potential safety hazards and behave accordingly, you can avoid accidents and keep on sailing smoothly. Here are a few tips to help every day on the water be great:
- Go easy on the drinks: It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement when you’re having a fun day on your boat, but try to limit the amount of alcohol your guests consume. And if you’re the captain for the day, it’s best to save the drinks for when you’re back on land — the Coast Guard reports that alcohol is the leading contributing factor to fatal boating accidents.
- Prepare for high speed: Nothing beats going fast in your boat and feeling the fresh wind on your face, but don’t forget to prepare guests and gear. When you get up to speed, anything and anyone who isn’t secured is more likely to fall. Do a once-over to make sure everyone is sitting down and everything is secure. Passengers are sometimes tempted to stand up when the boat is moving quickly to get a better view, but it’s best if everyone sits until you slow down.
- Wear a lifejacket: The young kids should always have a lifejacket on, but it’s smart for adults to wear one too if you’re in the open ocean or far from the shore. At least have them readily accessible and know how to put them on quickly. The Coast Guard reports over 84 percent of drowning victims in 2017 were not wearing a lifejacket.
- Designate a lifeguard: No matter who’s swimming, there should always be at least one person keeping an eye on the people in the water — especially if you’re in the ocean.
- Prepare for the sun and bring lots of water: While this one may sound obvious, we all forget sunscreen and a hat from time to time. Don’t let a sunburn and dehydration make you head for home before you’re done having fun.
- Respect other boaters: Besides giving people enough space to enjoy a relaxing day to themselves, it’s safest to steer clear of other boats. Leaving a healthy distance between you and other boats ensures that you don’t come too close to unseen swimmers and don’t disrupt anyone’s peace with a big wake.
- Always be calm: Creating a calm atmosphere on your boat is the best way to prevent many accidents. If you’re calm as the captain, your guests will naturally be calmer too.
Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats for Fun and Safety
Here at Sirocco Marine, we know compromise isn’t an option when it comes to protecting your family and friends. That’s why we’re proud to make only the highest-quality seaworthy vessels available. Rigid hull inflatable boats continually prove to be the safest family boat that’s ready for any boating adventure.
Besides having the functionality and performance to push fun to the limit, our rigid inflatables are trusted by military personnel and professionals alike because of their unique capabilities and unparalleled seaworthiness. If you’re ready to jump into the boating world and start making priceless memories with your friends and family members, check out our line of rigid inflatable boats — we have something for every boater.