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Safe boating is big fun

Keep electrical safety in mind: electricity and water do not mix

Electric safety is probably the last thing anyone thinks about on a leisurely summertime boat ride. But because water and electricity are a deadly combination, brush up on some boating safety rules before taking off on a three-hour tour (as in Gilligan’s Island)—or however long you plan to be on deck. 

It’s critical that you stay away from electric power lines and other electricity sources whenever you go boating. After all, besides being a popular ingredient for summertime fun, water is a good conductor of electricity. Even on a boat, electricity will still try to reach the ground below—in this case, to the bottom of the body of water. 

Boaters should constantly be aware of the location of power lines. When docking your boat, enlist the help of another person to help guide you at least 10 feet away from all power lines.

Other maritime must-do’s 

Be cognizant of signs indicating where underwater utility lines are located and don’t anchor your boat near them. 

Check for overhead power lines first—and then cast your line. 

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. 

Do not swim near docks or boats, as they can leak electricity into the water, causing water electrification. You can also be overtaken by carbon monoxide while in the water or on the swim platform when engines are running. 

If you feel a tingling sensation while swimming, stay calm and swim to shore if you can. Do not touch metal ladders or any other metal objects. Electrified water can cause death by loss of muscle control, ventricular fibrillation and electric shock. Others should not jump in to rescue. 

Equipment leakage circuit interrupters protect swimmers nearby from potential electrical leakage into the water around a boat. Consider installing them on your boat.

Inspect your boat’s electrical system

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

Make sure all of the boat’s AC outlets are three-prong. All electrical connections should be in a panel box to avoid contact. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) should be installed on your boat as well as on the dock. When using electricity near water, use portable GFCIs labeled “UL-Marine Listed.” Test all GFCIs once a month. 

If you have any doubt that your boat’s electrical system is safe, turn off the power supply at the panel and don’t turn it back on until you have an electrician check it out. 

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