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Nautical Knowledge

Summer Safety Series

Summer is a great time of year to be outdoors. The kids are out of school with lots of free time to explore – whether it’s hiking, spending a day at the park, swimming or doing some other type of athletic activity. However, there are certain things you should always keep in mind to make the most out of your fun in the sun and to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe.

Welcome to UNM Health’s Summer Safety Series. The fourth installment focuses on boating safety to ensure you and your loved ones have fun and memorable experiences on the water.

Nautical Knowledge

Take a boating safety class to get the most fun out of your watercraft this summer

By Terry Kelly

Trying to stay cool and have some fun this summer? Well, if you head out onto one of New Mexico’s many lakes, rivers or reservoirs, be sure to follow the state’s guidelines for boating education and safety.

Anyone operating a motor boat in New Mexico born after Jan. 1, 1989, is required to take a Boating Education Class, although it’s still a good idea for anyone planning on operating a boat to take one, says Chris Bolen, boating education and enforcement officer for New Mexico State Parks.

Both online and ranger-led courses are available, and the classes cover a variety of different boating-related subjects. The courses led by rangers are free of charge, but there is a fee to take an online class.

What you’ll learn about

“All courses offered in New Mexico are certified by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators for content,” Bolen says. “Ranger-led classes offer one-on-one interaction with experienced boating officers, and you get free literature and swag. The online classes carry a nominal fee but can be taken over several days at your convenience. Both will result in a boater education card issued upon successful completion.”

The main topics covered include:

  • Boat types and parts
  • Preparing for departure
  • Safe boat operation
  • Legal requirements in boating
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Other types of boats and watersports

Safety tips

While there are many important rules and guidelines, here are a few to remember:

  • Life jackets save lives. Whether on board a boat or kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, using a rubber raft or personal watercraft or doing any activity on a river everyone must wear a lifejacket. Children 12 years old and under must wear one when they are on a boat underway and above deck.
  • Maintain a 150-ft. distance from other boaters not doing the same activity you are doing.
  • Boating while intoxicated is illegal, and intoxicated boaters become intoxicated drivers. You can face up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine for your first conviction. A second conviction can lead to up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $750 in fines.
  • Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1989, must have a boater education card in order to operate a boat in New Mexico and most other states in the US.

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

A potentially deadly situation with boating includes a by-product of internal combustion engines, carbon monoxide, says Steve Seifert, MD, the medical director for the New Mexico Poison Center.

“There is a danger (for carbon monoxide poisoning) anytime you have an engine operating in any area, but especially an enclosed area where exhaust fumes might collect and concentrate,” he says.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal, but even if it isn’t, it can cause headaches, nausea or even more serious illnesses such as comas, strokes and heart attacks.

“Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless,” Seifert says, “so you might not even realize you’re in a bad environment.”

In order to stay safe, you should keep the following rules in mind regarding carbon monoxide:

  • Never run an engine in an enclosed space without proper ventilation.
  • Don’t let people swim or hang out near your boat’s exhaust ports, especially on the back deck or swim platform.
  • Turn off the engine when people are in the water near the boat.
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