Boater Safety Tips

Be Weather-Wise

Always check local weather conditions for boating safety before departure. If you notice darkening clouds; volatile, rough or changing winds; or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe by getting off the water.

Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist

Proper boating safety means being prepared for any possibility on the water. From compliance with fire safety regulations to tips for fueling up, following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to make sure no boating safety rules or precautions have been forgotten.

Use Common Sense

One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense. This means always operating at a safe speed, especially in crowded areas. Be alert at all times, and steer clear of large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn. Also, respect buoys and other navigational aids, all of which have been placed there for one reason only - to ensure your safety.

Designate an Assistant Skipper

Make sure more than one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat's handling, operations, features and safety tips. If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it's important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating rules to get everyone back to shore.

Develop a Float Plan

Whether you choose to inform a family member or the staff at your local marina, always be sure someone else knows your float plan: where you're going and how long you're going to be gone. Read more about float plans.

Make Proper Use of Life Jackets

Did you know that the majority of people who have drowned in boating accidents were not wearing life jackets? Make sure your family and friends stay safe by assigning and fitting each person onboard with a life jacket prior to departure. Read more about life jackets and personal flotation devices (PFD).

Avoid Alcohol

Boat safely at all times by saving the alcohol for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved, and studies have shown that the effect of alcohol is exacerbated by external factors such as sun and wind.

Learn to Swim

If you're going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety means knowing how to swim. Local organizations such as the American Red Cross offer training for all ages and abilities. Check to see what classes are offered in your area.

Take a Boating Course

Both beginning and experienced boaters need to be familiar with boating safety rules. Boater education requirements vary by state; some require validated completion of at least one boating safety course. Regardless of your state's requirements, it's always important to be educated, aware and prepared for every circumstance that might arise. You can learn boating safety rules by taking a local community course, or check for online tutorials to help educate novice boaters.

Consider a Free Vessel Safety Check

Take advantage of a free vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard. They offer complimentary boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. They'll provide a specialist to check out your boat and make helpful boating safety tips and recommendations.

List of Equipment

The following list of equipment should always be on board:

  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Floatable storage boxes for phones and other items such as a portable VHF, or satellite phone
  • GPS locator devices that active when submerged or remotely
  • Lights on PFDs
  • PFDs for each passenger and operator. This include one throwable device.
  • Visual distress items such as flares or dyes.