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Boats and power sources don’t mix 

ELECTRIC SAFETY IS PROBABLY the last thing that crosses anyone’s mind on a leisurely summertime boat ride. But because water and electricity are a deadly combination, brush up on some boating safety rules before launching your boat. 

Water is a good conductor of electricity. Even when you’re on a boat, electricity still tries to reach the ground below to the bottom of the body of water. This means it’s critical to stay away from electric power lines and other electricity sources when you go boating. 

Boaters should constantly be aware of the location of power lines, especially in a tall craft like a sailboat. When docking a sailboat, have another person help guide you at least 10 feet away from all power lines. Watch for signs that indicate where underwater utility lines are located, and don’t anchor your boat near them. 

Never swim near electric-powered boats, marinas or docks. If there is something wrong with the wiring in or near them, the electric currents can flow into the water. When the human body comes in contact with electrified water it conducts electricity. Death from electric shock can result. 

Inspections are important 

To make sure your boat’s electrical system is ship shape, periodically have a professional marine electrician inspect it. It should meet local and state safety codes and standards. 

Never use household cords near water. Make sure the boat’s AC outlets are three-prong. All electrical connections should be in a panel box to avoid contact. Ground fault circuit interrupters should be installed on your boat and on the dock. When using electricity near water, use portable GFCIs labeled “UL-Marine Listed.” Test all GFCIs once a month. 

Know where your main breakers are located on both the boat and the shore power source so you can respond quickly in case of an emergency.

Other on-the-water musts

If your boat accidentally comes in contact with a power line, whatever you do, don’t jump in the water. Stay on board and don’t touch anything made of metal. Don’t leave the boat until it has moved away from the power line. 

If you notice a tingling sensation while swimming, the water could be electrified. Get out quickly, avoiding metal objects like ladders. 

When fishing, check for overhead power lines before casting your line. 

Consider installing equipment leakage circuit interrupters on your boat and dock to protect swimmers nearby from potential electrical leakage into the water around your boat.

THOMAS NICHOLS is Safety Director at Jackson Energy Cooperative.

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