March 2020 Feature Joshua Hodge

Spending your vacation on a houseboat is a great way to have fun. It is a somewhat unique experience, fun, and often more comfortable than a cruise. Houseboat owners take precautions to ensure that their guests stay safe. However, like any other vacation, it is best to be more mindful of your own and your family’s safety.

The nature of most houseboat vacations demands that you be prepared. It’s not simply a vacation on the water. Being aware and prepared with some houseboat-specific safety tips is fruitful and an excellent path to a great vacation. Here are some tips for better safety on a houseboat.

1. Wear The Right Life Jacket

Always know where the life jackets on the houseboat are. It’s a good idea to check and see if they’re in good shape. It is worth noting that most houseboats offer safety life jackets. They’re adequate for intended safety use, but not the best to pick for water sports.

If water sports are on your itinerary, consider bringing your own appropriate life jacket along. Most marinas offer these life jackets on rent, so there is a chance you can get the right fit. However, if you are bringing children along, it is best to bring your own life jackets. That way, you can ensure the life jacket the kids are wearing is the right fit.

Also, don’t ignore life jackets when you’re on the houseboat. Small children should always wear life jackets if they’re unsupervised. Yes, this includes them being unsupervised for just a few minutes. This is especially important if the child does not know how to swim.

2. Be Mindful Of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide can be a real problem with houseboats. The gas is virtually undetectable by normal observation and can create life-threatening situations. Houseboats have carbon monoxide detectors and alarms installed, but do not throw caution to the wind on that premise alone.

The houseboat generator emits carbon monoxide. It is best to be mindful of this fact to avoid buildup of the gas and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you or the kids intend to be on the slide for a long time, make sure the generator is turned off. Similarly, avoid running the generator throughout the night to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

3. Prepare For The Sun

Soaking up the sun is awesome. While many of us prepare well for the beach, we forget the same precautions on the houseboat. Be prepared for the sun, and bring the necessary accessories along. Sunscreen, sunglasses, sprays, hats, whatever rocks your boat!

It would be incorrect to assume that these would be provided on the houseboat. Even if the houseboat makes some of these amenities available, the smart move is to pack your own. Make sure there is enough sun protection gear for the entire group.

4. Have A Marine Radio Or Walkie Talkie

Taking a walkie talkie along ensures that you can be in constant communication with your group. Mobile phones may be ubiquitous, but mobile phone signals are not! There’s a fair chance your houseboat will travel to or through areas with poor or no connectivity.

Check that the communication device you choose is waterproof. Enjoying some water sports should not render your radio useless. Another useful option is carrying a VHF marine radio. These radios are waterproof by design and have a longer range than traditional walkie talkies.

The houseboat is almost certain to have one of these, but you can bring along your own. This covers some eventualities and risky scenarios where such a gadget may be necessary.

5. Know Where Throwable Flotation Devices Are

The houseboat should have at least one throwable flotation device. It’s better if there are more, but ensure there is at least one available. This can be in the shape of a cushion, ring buoy, or other forms. Some of these may have an attached line that you can use to pull the flotation device towards someone in the water.

Even if everyone has their life jackets, make sure you know where the throwable flotation device is. If possible and allowed, practice throwing it a couple of times so you are on a better footing.

6. Be Careful Of The Houseboat’s Mechanical Features

Be careful of the houseboat’s mechanical features and actions. It is a gigantic machine, and it should be respected. Do not swim about the houseboat while the engine is on. Yes, this includes using a slide, paddleboard, and other similar maneuvers. Some people even think of wakeboarding, which again, is a big no.

Many houseboats have swim ladders and slide off the back deck. The location often means that these are close to the propellers. If the propeller is in motion, you should not be in the water near a houseboat. This is not a test of skill, it is an essential safety precaution.

7. First Aid And Emergency Kit

Most houseboats have a first aid kit available. However, it is you who knows best about the medical needs of your family and/or guests. Conventional first aid kits may not have the necessary medication for individual needs.

Be sure to pack the essential medicines and medications that could be required. In case someone in your group has specific needs for medication, ensure you have the necessities available. It is better to err on the side of caution, so pack whatever you think can be necessary.

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