There’s nothing quite like taking your boat out on a warm summer’s day to enjoy the cool, refreshing water. Whether you’re sailing around on one of South Florida’s many inviting lakes, or you’re the type of brave soul who is undaunted by the open ocean, owning a boat can give you the freedom to break away from your obligations and jettison your cares.

While owning a boat can grant you many liberties that you can’t find when stuck ashore, they also come with an additional element of added risk. Just because you’re afloat and carefree on a body of water doesn’t mean that you can suddenly neglect the wellbeing of yourself and your passengers. Once your Fort Lauderdale boat tag renewal is complete, your preparation is almost done. To avoid any terrifying mishaps or disasters this summer, please pay close attention to these four boat safety tips.

Get a free boat inspection from the USCG.

Before you take your vessel out, make sure it passes a safety check beforehand. The United States Coast Guard provides this service free of charge to help ensure that your craft is fit for adventure.Not only will they check to make sure your boat is water safe and not going to leave you stranded when you’re miles away from the shore, they’ll also help check to make sure your boat doesn’t get impounded for safety violations, either.

Do not operate your craft under the influence.

While sipping on a couple of cold ones may sound like the textbook example of relaxation, you should never drink when operating your boat. Just like you would never drink and drive, you should also never boat while intoxicated, either. Not only can you get hit with some serious fines, and even get arrested for BUI (boating under the influence), you can also gravely endanger yourself and your passengers. Nearly half of all boating accidents and one third of all boating fatalities can be traced back to drugs and alcohol. Pretty sobering statistics, right?

Pay attention to the weather.

The weather here in South Florida can rapidly change in the blink of an eye, especially during our rainy season. While the temperatures may seem perfectly fine in the morning, once the afternoon showers roll in, you can quickly become at risk of capsizing or even being struck by lightning with little to no warning. Always check the forecast before you head out, and if you do notice the weather take a turn for the worse (including increased chop, presence of dark clouds on the horizon, and changes in the wind), immediately turn around and head back to the mainland.

Always keep plenty of lifejackets onboard.

Even if you, your passengers, your granny, and your dog know how to swim, you should have lifejackets on board. Who cares if you were a lifeguard in high school? In the event of your vessel sinking, or somebody getting thrown overboard, you need to make sure you’re putting the safety of your passengers first and foremost. Furthermore, if your boat is less than 26 feet in length, all children under the age of 6 must wear a lifejacket. And what kind of monster doesn’t think of the children? One who doesn’t keep lifejackets on their boat, that’s who.