OLYMPIA - Spring marks the beginning of boating and fishing seasons, and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission cautions boaters - particularly anglers - to know their limits during this time of year, when Northwest weather and water conditions can change with little warning.
"The same rules of safe boating apply to everyone in a small boat," said Mark Kenny, boating law enforcement coordinator for State Parks. "Knowing your limits means remembering just four basic rules of small boat safety."
Limit loading your boat. Never exceed the recommended weight shown on your boat's capacity plate. Overloaded boats are much more likely to capsize. Too many people and too much equipment in a small boat is a recipe for disaster.
Limit boating to safe weather and water conditions. Check the weather forecasts before going fishing or boating. High winds, stormy seas and swift currents spell trouble. Be aware of changing weather and water conditions, and if they begin to change for the worse, seek shelter or head for home.
Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol quickly affects your judgment, balance and reactions, and its effects are more pronounced on water than on land.
Limit your movement in the boat and keep your weight low. Moving around and standing in a small boat increases the chance of capsizing and falling overboard.
"Remember that accidents can happen even to careful boaters who do know their limits, and wearing a lifejacket is your best insurance should you be involved in an accident," said Kenny.
All boats are required to carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket of the appropriate size for each person on board, and kids 12 years and younger are required to wear a lifejacket on the open deck of any boat under 19 feet.