PHOENIX — Tis the season to head out on the water and if a boat, kayak or other personal watercraft is on your Christmas list this holiday season, the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to make sure your inaugural voyage is a safe one.
Whether you’re planning to take a new watercraft out for some sightseeing or to do some fishing, all new and veteran watercraft users are encouraged to remember the following 10 tips to remain safe on the water.
- Always wear a life jacket. Life jackets aren’t just a good idea, they are required by state law for anybody 12 years old and younger when the boat is underway. There must also be at least one life jacket available for everyone aboard.
- Register your watercraft. Make sure the vessel’s registration is current before heading out on the water. It’s one of the most important boating requirements needed to operate a watercraft on Arizona waterways. The registration fee is determined by watercraft length and ranges from $20 to $66 for Arizona residents and $100 to $495 for non-residents. Those needing to renew their watercraft registration can do so online at www.azgfd.gov/boating.
- Take a boating and watercraft safety course. Learn how to practice safe boating techniques and to respond in the event of an emergency by completing a hands-on safety course.
- Learn and follow the “navigation rules of the road.” In Arizona, most citations are issued for navigation rule violations. Navigation rules and water markers such as buoys are in place to help avoid collisions on the water.
- Research where you plan to take your watercraft. It’s always a great idea to learn everything you can about the waterway you’re heading off to before you get there. Call ahead and check maps to learn about underwater obstacles and shallow zones.
- Make sure you have the proper supplies. Make sure there is plenty of drinking water, snacks and food aboard if the plan is to be on the water for extended periods of time. Also be sure to leave a float plan with family and friends, detailing where you’re going and when you plan to return; and to pack sunscreen, a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and cell phone or marine radio.
- Do not install or use unapproved lighting. Rope lighting, “party” lighting and various other types of decorative lighting may not meet U.S. Coast Guard certification requirements and could increase the likelihood of a collision. Regardless if the lighting was installed before the vessel was purchased, decorative lighting could violate U.S. Coast Guard rules.
- Do not drink alcohol or use drugs while operating a watercraft.Just as it’s illegal to operate a vehicle on the roadway under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s equally illegal to do so on the water. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents nationwide in 2014, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Cold-water immersion can be deadly so dress appropriately and if you fall overboard, climb back into or on top of the boat. If you cannot, stay near the vessel and use oars or anything floating nearby to help stay afloat.
- Buy a fishing license. If fishing is even part of the day’s adventure, anyone 10 years of age and older dipping a line into the water must have a valid fishing license. General fishing licenses cost $37 for residents and $55 for non-residents per year. To purchase one and for information on various hunt and fish license combinations, visitwww.azgfd.gov and click "Buy a License."
Those needing to register their watercraft can save time by renewing online atwww.azgfd.gov and clicking "Boat Renewals." For more information on boating in Arizona, stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species (such as quagga mussels) or to sign up for a safety course, visitwww.azgfd.gov/boating.