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Preparation is vital to avoid dangers while boating
Boating, considered one of the more enjoyable outdoor activities on God’s earth, can become a traumatic experience once the safety aspects are taken too lightly. You won’t believe how many people still go out boating in a dangerous manner thinking they can beat the odds! The practice of safe boating has certainly evolved over time, but much still needs to be achieved in terms of education and awareness. We look at some of the overlooked hazards of boating.



Many boaters head out to sea (or even the dam!) not realising that weather conditions can change dramatically in a single heartbeat. Winds can kick up suddenly in the late morning and thunderstorms can start developing in the afternoon, leaving you in a bit of a pickle if you don’t check the weather prior to your departure. The biggest weather-related dangers for local boaters and swimmers are strong winds, lightning, and heat-related illnesses. Strong winds cause the most problems as they often create large waves, which can carry away swimmers and capsize or swamp small boats. It’s imperative to always check the forecast before departure and remain alert to changing weather conditions while on the water.

While at sea, always listen for weather alerts and warnings on your VHF radio’s weather channels (Channel 16 provides regular weather updates). Check weather websites ( prior to departure where you can get a detailed report on weather conditions (including rain forecast, humidity, swell, etc). Always speak to locals in the area; they often know the weather patterns better than anyone. Also, it’s imperative that you let someone know of your departure and return time before heading out to sea. If you’re on a dam in Gauteng during the summer months and you notice lightning in the air, head back to shore as soon as possible as lightning can be highly dangerous out on big open spaces. The African summer heat can also be hazardous, so make sure you apply lots of sunscreen, take regular breaks from the sun and stay hydrated.

Electrocution There are several cases where people have been shocked by electric current while in the water, with a high number resulting in deaths. Your boat isn’t earthbound and because it floats on the water surface, a ground wire to the earth isn’t possible. The 12V system (2-wire) on the boat grounds back to the battery. According to, “the negative terminal on the battery is connected to a grounding cable connecting all the metal surfaces on the hull. Electric faults can occur from frayed, corroded or faulty wiring, poorly installed or non-marine appliances (marine and onshore residential electrical standards and safety requirements have some very important differences). It could be caused by a current leak from electrical components such as pumps, refrigerators or battery chargers or a non-approved receptacle. It could also be caused by hull movement, chaffing, or rats, or other animals chewing on the wires.”…


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