Headed for the water? Put safety first!

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Local sailing expert offers tips for boat safety

NEW ORLEANS – Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off to summertime and for many Louisiana residents, summer means more time on the water. If you plan to spend time afloat, here are some important reminders for staying safe.

Stanton Murray of Sailtime.com showed our Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald, a few pointers out on Lake Pontchartrain.

First on the list is making sure that the boat has all the necessary safety gear, especially if you’re returning to the water after a long break.

Murray recommends using a checklist to be sure you have everything necessary, from flares to life-jackets. Be sure the fire extinguisher hasn’t expired and that nothing is broken.

He says even if you’re going out with friends, a safety briefing for everyone on the boat is a must.

“And even if you’re not the boat owner, but as a passenger on a boat, you should look out and help with the safety,” says Murray, noting that everyone should be paying attention to the sailing surroundings.

Just as distracted driving is a serious issue on the highways, it’s a danger on the water too, where speed can make things worse.

Have a plan in case of emergency, including designating an assistant Skipper and running a few ‘person overboard’ drills; it could save a life.

Check local weather conditions and have another checklist to be sure the vessel you’re going out on is ready to go. Fuel, batteries and navigation lights should all be on that list.

“In Louisiana actually we have a boater’s license. and you can go online and take the class and get certified also the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons are all great resources to get refresher courses,” recommends Murray.

There’s exciting news for the New Orleans sailing community: After 15 years, the lakefront marina that was destroyed by Katrina is nearly finished. Plus, a new community sailing center has been built and once the COVID-19 pandemic is stabilized many new programs will be announced.

Another option for anyone who doesn’t want the hassle of owning a boat, but would still like time on the water: SailTime has a membership program that allows people to purchase a ‘share’ in a boat, much like a gym membership.

However you manage to get on the water, turn off the stress, and turn on the safety!

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