RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Memorial Day weekend kicks off the 2010 boating season.
While you're shining up your ship, officials hope you'll perform some safety checks as well.
Not preparing before you set sail could bring tragic consequences.
So we went to the Coast Guard Auxiliary to find out the top five things every boater should do before hitting the water.
The water brings peace to Powhatan's David Clark.
"I'm a fisherman so I go to fish," said the long time boater. "It's just nice being on the water."
But before he says 'anchors away' for the 2010 season, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary performed a safety check on his boat.
Shirley Callahan says it's the only way to make sure your vessel is water-worthy.
"There has been thousands and thousands of people dying in the water each year from foolishness where if they knew the safety rules, it would not have happened," she said.
The first tip on Callahan's check list may seem obvious, but she says it's a common oversight.
"The very most important thing you need to check while you're still on land is that you have your plug in because if you don't, the water will come in," she said.
Tip number two, Callahan can't repeat often enough, make sure you have personal flotation devices that fit every passenger on board.
"Once you get into the water it's very hard to put one on," she said. "Without one, nine times out of ten, you are going to drown."
Flares could be crucial in an emergency.
But what Callahan says most people don't know, is that they can actually go bad.
So it's important to check the expiration date, before heading out.
Next make certain all navigation lights and radios on your boat work, you'll need them if you get stranded.
And of course if your radio fails, it's important to have whistles or fog horns to draw attention.
After forty years of boating, Clark says you can never underestimate the power of the water.
"You fall off out there, that may very well be it," he said.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers state mandated safety courses, and some companies actually give discounts on boating insurance premiums for participating.
You can find more information on their website.