Boating Safety Tips

Young boy wearing life vest

Every time you take your boat out on the water is a new experience. No matter how many trips you have under your belt, it is best to freshen up on boat safety before each voyage. Be sure you and your passengers follow these safe boating tips and practices to help promote  an incident-free return from each outing.

Before Setting Out on Your Boat

Ensure that your boat is operating properly before heading out onto the water. Follow this pre-departure checklist to help you avoid any potential problems.

  • Share your float plan  with a friend or relative. Be sure to include your destination and expected time of return.
  • Check fuel levels and add as necessary.
  • Check your engine. For in-board engines, open the hatch to look for fuel or fluid (oil, coolant, etc.) leakage or excess water in the bilge, or the lowest section inside of a boat. For outboard engines, check the fuel system for leaks or heavy gas odor. Excessive fuel vapors from either engine type can be a sign of a serious problem. 
  • Ensure all lights are functioning and in place.
  • Check for any electrical issues such as loose, disconnected or corroded conductors.
  • Test radio/communications devices.
  • Run blowers to evacuate fumes and vapors from the bilge prior to starting your engine.
  • Attach your boat and vehicle keys to a floating bobber.
  • Check the local weather, sea reports and boating forecasts. As the operator of the boat, you have a responsibility to pay attention to the weather and should not head out if adverse conditions are expected.
  • Have an emergency/evacuation plan in place, and go over it with your passengers.
  • Review the vessel’s controls, location of personal flotation devices and location of fire extinguishers with your passengers.


What to Take Aboard

No matter how careful you, your passengers and fellow boaters may be, accidents can still happen. In the event of an incident, you should always have these items with you while you are out on your boat:

  • Boat certificate and registration.
  • Towing policy paperwork (if you have one).
  • Personal flotation device (PFD) —with protective packaging removed—for each passenger.
  • Charged and functioning fire extinguisher.
  • Fully-stocked boating emergency/survival kit.


Staying Safe on the Water

Having a good time while out on the water includes getting everyone back to shore safely. Whether you are navigating or just along for the ride, everyone plays a critical role in boating safety. Be sure you and your passengers practice these safe boating behaviors on every outing:

  • Do not exceed the number of passengers safely allowed on your vessel.
  • Make sure all passengers remain in their proper, seated positions on the boat while it is in motion.
  • Children should wear a PFD at all times – this is required by law in some states, so be sure to check local laws, rules and regulations. Adults should consider wearing them as well, and at a minimum, they should be readily available. 
  • Shut off the engine while passengers are loading and unloading for recreational activities such as tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding and swimming.
  • Monitor gauges at the helm (voltage, temperature, fuel) to help promote safe operation and identify any issues as soon as possible.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, like water conditions and other vessels, to help you react to any potential dangers in a timely manner.
  • The primary and backup operator (if you have one) should abstain from consuming any alcoholic beverages prior to or during the outing.
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