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Essential Boating Safety Equipment for Wisconsin Waters

Essential Boating Safety Equipment for Wisconsin Waters

American Advantage Lindow Insurance proudly serves Southeastern Wisconsin and the Greater Milwaukee Area.  Our agency wants to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience on our beautiful lakes and rivers.

Whether you’re planning to enjoy a peaceful day on Pewaukee Lake or you’re gearing up for a journey down the Milwaukee River and out into Lake Michigan, it’s important to know what safety equipment is required on your boat according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG).  The USCG has jurisdiction over the waters of Lake Michigan.

Life Jackets

Life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFDs), are a crucial piece of safety equipment. Both the WDNR requires one wearable PFD for each person on board your boat. The life jackets must fit.  If you’re out on Lake Michigan, all passengers under the age of 12 must wear a life jacket while the watercraft is underway according to the USCG. 

If your boat is 16 feet or longer, you also need to carry at least one throwable PFD, like a ring buoy or cushion. Make sure each PFD is in good condition.  

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are a must-have, especially if you’re on a motorboat with closed compartments for portable fuel, a permanently installed fuel tank, or spaces where flammable gasses or vapors can collect. Make sure the extinguisher is easily accessible, charged, and not expired. 

Visual Distress Signals

If your boat is over 16 feet long and you’re on federally controlled waters (like Lake Michigan), you must have visual distress signals onboard. These could be flares, smoke signals, or even a distress flag. These signals can help others spot you if you’re in trouble, especially in low light or poor weather conditions. 

Sound-Producing Devices

A sound-producing device, like a horn or whistle, is required on all vessels. These devices are essential for warning other boaters of your presence in foggy conditions or when navigating tight spaces. 

Navigation Lights

If you plan on boating between sunset and sunrise, or in times of restricted visibility, your boat must be equipped with navigation lights. This typically includes a red (port) and green (starboard) light at the bow (front) and a white light at the stern (back) of your boat. 

Larger personal watercraft (PWC) have different requirements on Lake Michigan.  See the USCG’s requirements for masthead lights and stern lights on PWC longer than 26 feet.

Ventilation Systems

Motorboats with gasoline engines need a ventilation system to remove flammable gasses. If your boat was built after 1980 and has a gasoline engine in an enclosed compartment, it also needs a power ventilation system. 

Backfire Flame Arrestors

Backfire flame arrestors are required for inboard gasoline engines. These devices prevent flames from igniting vapors if the engine backfires. 

Pollution Regulation Placards

Larger boats (26 feet and longer) need pollution regulation placards to remind everyone onboard of the rules about dumping waste into the water.

Not Required but Common Sense Things to Consider When Boating

Don’t Drink and Boat

Hey it’s Wisconsin, we get it, but designate a sober boat driver to ensure everyone stays safe on the water, including other boaters.  Not to mention you can get a DUI on the water just like you can on land in Wisconsin.

Pack Sun Protection

If your boat breaks down, odds are you will be on the water longer than anticipated.  Pack essential sun protection–e.g. Sun block, sun glasses, hats, and beach towels.  Nothing adds insult to injury like a severe sunburn.

Bring Extra Water and Snacks

They’re called emergencies for a reason.  Pack more than you anticipate needing in the event you get stranded.  Especially if you’re venturing out on Lake Michigan.  

Keep Your Cell Phone Charged, Cool, and Dry

If you have an emergency on the water, your smartphone could make all the difference between either a rescue operation or a recovery operation.  Keep your phone charged and in a water tight container.  Most cell phones will shut off when they overheat so keeping your cell phone in a cool or shaded location so that it’s working when you need it.

Bring an Emergency Weather Radio

If you purchase an emergency weather radio that also has AM capabilities, you can listen to Bob Uecker call a Milwaukee Brewer baseball game while also responsibly monitoring for severe weather .  Sometimes the oldest technologies are the most reliable technologies.  Keeping an eye on the weather is critical to a successful boating trip in Wisconsin.  If you are alerted of severe weather start heading towards the boat ramp immediately to avoid being forced to weather the storm on the water.

In Conclusion 

Whether you’re cruising down the Fox River, exploring the wonders of Lake Michigan, or simply taking a leisurely ride out on the Big Muskego Lake, having the proper safety equipment onboard is not just smart – it’s the law.  Safety with a splash of common sense will lead to fun on Wisconsin waters! 

For more information on boat safety in Wisconsin check out the WDNR’s website. 

Having the proper boating insurance in place is important for everyone who owns a boat, but it’s especially critical for high net worth individuals.  Don’t leave your assets exposed.  If you have any questions about your boat insurance coverage and potential exposure, please reach out to us at American Advantage Lindow Insurance before hitting the water.

Enjoy your time on the water and stay safe!

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