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Safe boating depends on you

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The weather's great, the weekend is free of chores and responsibilities; it is a great time to head out on the water. But, before you jump in, prepare yourself to ensure your safety, those in the boat with you and others on the water.

· Listen to the National Weather Service for the day's forecast and plan accordingly. Cancel boating trip if inclement weather is expected.
· Ensure all safety equipment is ready and available
· Familiarize yourself with lakes, rivers and inlets before attempting to navigate on your own
· Ensure to inspect equipment. Have boat motor and any other equipment serviced routinely
· Use extreme care when fueling. Clean up any spilled fuel. Don't let anyone smoke or have open flames near gas tanks. Try to keep gas tank area well ventilated
· Travel at speeds safe enough for water conditions
· Watch for others in the water, personal watercraft such as jet skis are easily overturned by the waves generated by a passing speed boat
· Don't overload the boat with people or equipment
· Ensure all occupants wear properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard approved floatation vest
· Keep an emergency kit onboard that contains food, blankets, sun block, fresh water and flares

And please don't drink and boat. Research has shown that as little as four hours' exposure to sun, wind, glare, vibration, and other motion on the water produces "boater's hypnosis," a kind of fatigue that slows reaction time almost as much as if a person were drunk. Adding alcohol to the mix only makes things worse. Alcohol can affect your judgment, motor skills, peripheral vision, depth perception, night vision, and balance.

"Tipsy" people on an unstable, moving platform like a boat run the risk of slipping on deck, stumbling down a gangway, or falling overboard. In the event of a fall overboard, alcohol may increase risk of cardiac arrest and will certainly reduce your body's ability to stay warm in cold water. It is a well established fact that with the very first drink, brain functions are depressed. That's why boaters should think before they drink.