By Justin Stoltzfus
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Headed for open waters this summer? Knowing a few fundamental rules for boating safety can help protect you, your passengers, and your assets out on the water.

Conduct a Thorough Maintenance Check
If your pre-season inspection of your boat doesn't include at least a couple of dozen items, you're probably ignoring some things that can be perilous at sea. Doing a proper maintenance check means looking carefully at all fittings, clamps, belts and hoses, along with doing routine engine maintenance. You'll want to check the exhaust system and the battery, and look for any problems with the propeller or hull. Some issues are hard to spot, such as fishing line tangled around a prop or fan, or crevice corrosion for stainless steel bars or fasteners. Boating Magazine provides an extensive list of maintenance tips to keep your boat looking sharp and in good working order.

Have Emergency Equipment on Board
Another big step in boating safety is to have the items you need on hand for an emergency. That means having a fire extinguisher to handle open flames and stocking life jackets, lifeboats and other buoyant gear. Lighting and radio equipment are also key, as is a carbon monoxide detector to spot dangerous fumes.

Keep a Clean Ship
Doing some good seasonal cleaning on your boat can make it easier to operate and respond to emergencies. Look for slippery stairs or other surfaces, and check ropes and cables to make sure they are easy to control by hand. Don't let a slip-and-fall accident ruin your boating season—even if it's not a "man overboard" situation, dangerously slick areas can lead to sprained ankles or other injuries.

Check Out Electrical Systems
Water and electricity don't mix. Keeping a keen eye on electrical safety onboard and in port will decrease the chances of a severe electrical accident. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends regular safety checks for a boat's electrical system, along with ground fault circuit interrupters for wiring, and the use of approved marine safety gear from Underwriting Laboratories, a key standard-keeper for this sort of hardware.

Plan Well
Think ahead for a safe boating season. Develop emergency plans and share them with everyone on board. Be deliberate about where you will go on your boat and how you will get there. And—this is an important one—always have a designated driver. If you're responsible for navigating, be sure that you're alert at all times to protect everyone on board.

Along with the above, it's also important to have adequate boat insurance to protect you during boating season. You can be doing everything right and still get into a boating accident. Make sure you have the right coverage to be able to replace or repair your boat should a problem arise. Take a look at Liberty Mutual’s Boat and Watercraft Insurance options for coverage you can count on in the water or at shore.


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