Here’s how to make celebrating our nation’s birthday on the water safer and more fun
If you live in a community that shoots off its annual Fourth of July fireworks display over the water, your boat can give you, your family and your friends the best seats in the house. But boating at night on crowded waters can be dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions. It’s important to put safety first at all times.
Here are 10 tips for safely watching Fourth of July fireworks from your boat.
- File a float plan. Make a list including the name and/or model of your boat, your name and the names of everyone you plan to have aboard for your fireworks outing, along with their emergency contact information. Add your destination and expected departure and return times, and leave the float plan with your dockmaster or a responsible person on shore.
- Refrain from drinking alcohol. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, BUI (Boating Under the Influence) is a contributing factor in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities. In addition to ensuring the safety of everyone aboard your boat by not drinking, keep in mind that BUI is illegal in every state, and on the Fourth of July, local law enforcement is sure to be patrolling the waterways in force.
- Chart your route. Plan in advance the spot where you want to drop anchor to watch the fireworks. Often, the Coast Guard or a local marine authority will designate an approved anchoring zone. Be sure to log it into your boat’s GPS-enabled chartplotter. Double-check the local boating and anchoring regulations for your area as well. It’s also a good idea to set the marker buoys along your route as waypoints since they may be difficult to see when you are boating home in the dark.
- Fuel up. Make sure you have plenty of fuel on board before you set out. Many fuel docks close at night, so if you are running low after the fireworks, you might not be able to refuel.
- Don’t overload the boat. Before inviting friends to join you on board, double-check your boat’s weight capacity, which is listed on a capacity plate by the helm or on the transom. During the fireworks, ask your passengers to stay comfortably seated instead of crowding the rail.
- Check your lights. If you don’t usually operate your boat at night, make sure its running and anchor lights are working and brush up on the rules for using them before you set out. In addition to ensuring that you have all the required safety gear on board, bring along flashlights and a portable spotlight. Proper use of your lights can help you and the other boaters around you to maintain a safe distance from each other in the dark.
- Wear life jackets. Before leaving the dock, be sure everyone on board the boat has a life jacket that fits. When boating at night, the risk of an accidental grounding or collision is increased, so adults, as well as children, should wear their jackets. Life jackets save lives!
- Leave the fireworks displays to the pros. Don’t bring store-bought fireworks or sparklers along on the boat to fire off yourself. Fiberglass is flammable, and your fuel tank also can create a serious fire safety risk.
- Watch out for sparks. Even if you are anchored at a safe distance from the fireworks barge or shoreside launch zone, sparks from the display may drift over onto your boat. Be sure your fire extinguisher is up to date, and keep a bucket of water ready to douse any stray sparks.
- Have patience. After the fireworks are over, let smoke from the fireworks display clear, and allow the boat traffic to dissipate before you head home. Expect delays at boat ramps and marina entrances as well. Break out some snacks and enjoy spending time on the water with your family and friends while you wait.
Following these 10 tips for watching fireworks from your boat can help you and your family and friends enjoy a safe, fun and memorable star-spangled evening on the water. Happy Fourth of July from Mercury Marine!