ALEXANDRIA, VA – For recreational boaters, being on the water for the July 4th holiday is akin to driving to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving. Waterways are jammed, launch ramps are mayhem, and getting home after the fireworks end can feel like a California freeway at rush hour - except there are no breakdown lanes. The folks at Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) have seen it all before, and have these three tips on how to overcome the challenges of boating's busiest day of the year:
Take care of the little things now: With July 4th occurring mid-week this year, more boaters are expected to take the week off. This likely means more use - and wear and tear on the boat. Some boats may have been recently launched and simply not up to snuff yet. Regardless, now is the time to address the things that still need fixing - with extra attention paid to the electrical (battery, charging system, navigation lights) and the fuel system (fuel lines, fresh gas). With boat trailers, check tires for wear, bearings for grease, and ensure all lights work.
The Christmas tree light effect: Each year after the fireworks shows end and boaters head home, the telephone switchboard at the BoatUS Towing Service 24/7 Dispatch Center lights up like a Christmas tree with hundreds of simultaneous requests for on-the-water assistance from across the country. What's the best way to prevent from having to call BoatUS Towing Services? Don't run down the battery playing music all day and be careful to avoid anchor line entanglements. On the way home, post extra lookouts, don't take shortcuts, and be patient at the launch ramp. Powerboats need to watch their wakes. With nightfall, the chance of accidents increases, so it's a good idea to have everyone in life jackets. If you're concerned about getting on-the-water or roadside assistance for a broken down boat trailer or tow vehicle, check out www.BoatUS.com/towing.
The extra guest factor: For the holiday, many boating guests are likely to be kids, but some vessels won't have the right-sized life jacket aboard. Boaters can borrow a kid's life jacket at no cost at over 500 locations by going to www.BoatUS.com/Foundation/LJLP/map. Also, smaller boats are prone to overloading, leaving just a precious few inches of freeboard to prevent wakes and waves from coming aboard. Extra guests also likely means a good party - it is America's birthday, after all, so celebrate! Just be sure alcohol doesn't become a safety issue. Waiting to drink until you safely get back home ensures everyone will have a good time.
PHOTO: WATCH THOSE FIREWORKS AT ANCHOR, BUT MAKE SURE YOU DON'T RUN DOWN YOUR STARTER BATTERY BY PLAYING THE STEREO!