Water and Electricity: Boat Safety

A river with plants around it, with a power line in the distance, and a bird flying byWater and electricity are two elements that are essential in allowing us to live our day-to-day life. However, when the two come together they make a deadly combination. When it comes to boating and sailing on the open water, we should try to keep our boats away from electric power lines and other sources of electricity.

Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. It is important to remember that even when you are sailing, electricity is still trying to reach the ground miles below the water. The most common occurrence in which water and electricity come into contact with each other is when sailing vessels come into contact with power lines. By being alert and looking up, you can save your life as well as friends and family onboard.

When sailing this summer, follow these tips on how to avoid power lines

  • Avoid contact with overhead power lines by checking clearance before raising or lowering your mast or spar. Keep in mind that metal spars or masts can conduct electricity.
  • When determining overhead clearances, make sure to take the tide into consideration. Overhead clearances that are adequate for your boat at low tide may not be adequate for your boat at high tide.
  • Make sure to keep all drying sails and sheet lines from blowing into power lines.
  • Don’t haul, store, or sail your boat unless you have at least 10 feet of clearance between the highest point of your boat and the lowest point of all power lines. Remember that overhead power lines exist over roads, parking lots, waterways, and other boat storage facilities.
  • When pulling your boat onto the beach or when docking, always look overhead for power lines.
  • When removing your boat from the water, watch out for overhead power lines. Ask another person to direct you so that you can stay clear of all power lines by at least 10 feet.
  • When fishing onboard, make sure to check for overhead power lines before casting your line.
  • As you boat, be aware of signs indicating underwater gas and electric utility lines. Make sure to not anchor your boat near underwater cables or pipelines. At low tide, clearances from underwater cables and pipelines could be inadequate for your boat.

If you find that your boat has come into contact with a power line, DON’T JUMP INTO THE WATER. Remain on the boat and avoid touching anything metal in nature. The electrical charge could pass through the boat and the water to reach the ground. Leave the boat only after it has sufficiently moved away from the line.

Boats on waterMany of the safety measures you take to make sure electrical injuries and shocks are prevented within your home can be applied to your boat. You can minimize electrocution from the onboard AC electrical system by ensuring the boat is properly wired by a professional marine electrician and is inspected periodically for damage or deterioration. All of the AC outlets on board should be three-prong with appliances plugging directly into them. As within the home, extension cords should be used only for temporary purposes on a boat. Ensure that all electrical connections are inside a panel box to avoid contact. NEVER interconnect the AC and the DC systems on the boat. Whether you are at home or on a boat, always take the necessary electrical safety precautions!