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Cruise-Boating Safety for Solo Travelers. Although I have had a lifelong love of boating, I am no expert. After two tries at sailing lessons, my skill set is limited to “manning” the winch handle. The most important thing I learned was don’t drop it over board. However, I have come to appreciate that for both experts and those of us amateurs, the real key is staying safe. In a past press account in the Washington, DC area, there was one drowning when a kayak flipped over and three others missing while out boating. Sometime after that, sadly two members of the Kennedy family were lost in a canoe in the Chesapeake Bay in late spring. In addition, another recent boating accident resulted in a death in Lake Pontchatrain in New Orleans when a canoe overturned. In springtime, hypothermia is a real added risk since the water is still very cold even when the weather has warmed up. In addition, even experienced boaters have likely had 6-9 months’ hiatus during cooler weather and may overlook certain safety features.
Here are our 6 tips to consider.
Cruise-Boating Safety for Solo Travelers-Updated Tips: Plan Ahead:
Cruise Ship Safety:
Tip One: Know your provider, their safety record and history of issues such as the norovirus.
Tip Two: In 2021, find out what actions they have taken to address the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
Tip Three: What safety drills and practices have they established. This should range from ship malfunction and/or accidents at sea to fire.
Tip Four: Remember a ship is much like a hotel, Don’t pack valuables and use safes. Lock your cabin.
Tip Five: What part of the world are you visiting. Is there political turbulence there? One great example is Burma/Myanmar. I love Southeast Asia and for years have wanted to see the country via a cruise or river cruise. However, in 2021, political protests and violence would make a relaxing trip there impossible. (In any case, always get travel insurance to cover your costs. Consider especially Cancel for Any Reasons policies.)
Boating Safety: Going Without a “Captain”:
Having grown up in the Deep South, power boats, water skiing and swimming were always a given in warm weather. Later canoes and white water rafting were added to the mix. If you are solo or with a group formed by a trip provider, make safety a key consideration. Here are our updated tips.
If you are going out on the water alone, let friends/family know where you will be and your likely time returning. As solo hikers find, in a second, an accident can put even very fit, real athletes in trouble. One extra risk on water is that in open seas, you may drift far beyond your set course. That can make finding you hard, particularly at night.
Pick an area where there is at least some traffic back and forth. Communing with nature can be great, but it also makes it unlikely to find help when needed.
Don’t assume your cell phone will rescue you. If you can’t get a signal, you need to have a backup. Larger boats will typically have a marine radio. Absent that, at least have flares or some means of attracting attention, especially if you get stuck after dark.
Cruise-Boating Safety for Solo Travelers-Updated Tips: Expect the Unexpected:
Even strong swimmers can get knocked out and overboard when hit by a swift moving boom. When going below in a sailboat, always keep one hand free to hang on, especially when going “down below” to the galley.
Treat boating as seriously as when you drive a car. So save “Happy Hour” for when you will not be at the helm.
Know the rules of the road. Be sure to check out carefully both state and federal regulations. Typically, there must be a life jacket for each person in the boat, including children. In addition, boats of 16′ must have a device that can be thrown if someone has gone overboard.
Make sure you know what changes in weather. Living in Washington, DC, I have previously been day sailing with a motley crew of friends. One thing we had in common was how little experience some of us had. My top “skill set” was working the winch handle without dropping it overboard. High winds and storms came about very fast. If we had to go forward and get the storm rigging set, it was really hard to hear instructions over a howling wind.
When I took sailing lessons, our instructor took seriously “man overboard” exercises. The bottom line we were told was whenever someone was thrown from the boat and went into the water there could be a fatal accident.
Canoes are quick to tip and getting stuck underneath is a danger. In small boats, such as canoes, this is even more an issue. Sadly, in the past year, a young member of the Kennedy family and her young child dies in a boating accident retrieving a canoe near the shore of a family home near the Chesapeake Bay.
For a comprehensive overview, see this online 45 page brochure.