TIPS Posted Aug 29, 2013 By: wfn How to Stay Safe this Labor Day The 2013 Labor Day holiday weekend, which runs August 30-September 2, marks the unofficial end of summer in much of the U.S. It's also one of the busiest boating weekends of the year. With that in mind, the nonprofit Sea Tow Foundation for boating safety offers these five important tips to help boaters to help them enjoy the weekend on the water and stay safe! Wear a life jacket Life jackets save lives, but only if you wear them. New options such as inflatable belt packs and vests make life jackets cool and comfortable. Wear one at all times while on the water. Don't forget that children under the age of 13 are required to wear life jackets by law. Designate a sober skipper Boat operators need to be clear-headed and able to make quick decisions while on the water. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs- even some over-the-counter or prescription medicines-decreases reaction time and the ability to think clearly. And, in most states operating a boat while intoxicated will land you in jail. Carry a VHF radio Today's boaters often rely on cell phones. However, they can be unreliable on the water where coverage is often spotty or nonexistent. A VHF radio allows you to broadcast a call for help to anyone in your area monitoring Channel 16 (the hailing and distress channel), as well as the U.S. Coast Guard. Before heading out, make sure that your VHF is operational by performing a radio check. In many regions across the country, you can do this via the free Sea Tow Automated Radio Check service. To find the VHF channel for a radio check in your area, visit www.seatow.com/boating-safety/automated-radio-checks Don't overload the boat This is one of the most overlooked and abused boating safety guidelines. The number of seats available on board is not always the best indicator of capacity. Look for the weight capacity plate on the transom or by the helm, or look up the passenger capacity in the builder's manual. Stay in tune with the weather Storms can develop and sneak up quickly, especially when you're having fun on the water and not paying attention. Appoint weather watchers for the whole group and ask them to listen to the radio for the latest reports. Better yet, get the free Sea Tow App for iPhone and Android smartphones, which offers a handy Weather/Radar function for monitoring weather activity and forecasts. Download the App here. How do you stay safe on the water? Let us know in the comments.