One of the best things about summer is being on the open water with your family and friends. It’s a big responsibility to keep everyone on the boat safe at all times. To keep your passengers safe, refresh your boating safety procedures, check out these safe boating tips:

Always have basic safety gear on your boat

rope on dock

  • Flashlight– a working flashlight with extra batteries will not only help you walk around your deck in the dark, but it will also come in handy, if you run out of gas or stall, to signal nearby boats.
  • Duct tape– if you sprung a leek in your boat you can make a temporary patch for it until you get back to shore.
  • First aid kit– Keep an up to date, properly stocked first aid kit on your boat at all times in case of an emergency. (this is a list of things that should be in a first aid kit)
  • Whistle– The whistle is a widely recognized signal for calling for help in the water.
  • Ropes– Ropes are critical for pulling someone back into the boat if they have fall overboard, being able to dock, and secure loose items on deck in bad weather.
  • Fire extinguisher– Your craft can start on fire even though you are in the water. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher on your boat and all passengers know where it is and how to use it.


Have properly fitting life jackets

life jackets on rackPhoto by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash

The U.S. Coast Guard requires that there is one (1) USCG-approved life jacket that is accessible per-passenger. They must be well fitting and in good condition (kids cannot use adult sized life jackets and kids must wear life jackets at all times). To understand all the laws and how to properly fit someone for a life jacket take a look at this link from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Check the weather before leaving

captains chair on boatPhoto by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

The best time to go out on the boat is a nice, warm, sunny day. Sometimes a beautiful day can turn bad in a blink of an eye. Make sure to check the weather forecast for the area you will be boating in.

Don’t overload your boat

boat with a lot of peoplePhoto by Thodoris ? on Reshot

Make sure to follow your boats capacity limits. If you go over the weight limit with passengers and other equipment the craft could become unbalanced.

Don’t drink and boat

man on boat Photo by Blaine Sledge on Reshot

Just like driving a car while drinking is illegal, so is operating a boat under the influence (BUI). In fact, it is illegal in all 50 states! Alcohol can be even more dangerous on the waters than land because of the environment. Due to the waves, vibration, noise, sun, and other stressors this environment can accelerate the effects of alcohol. To keep everyone safe on board, do not drink and boat. Learn more about the dangers of drinking while boating here.

Be courteous to others on the water

wind sailingPhoto by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Be aware of other boaters and people in the water. Stay a safe distance away from other vessels, keep your wake low when near other boats, swimmers, and shore. As always follow all laws and regulations made by proper local authorities.

Follow proper anchoring procedures

anchor and rope on dockPhoto by Oscar Helgstrand on Unsplash

Make sure you are using the right anchor for your craft (This article explains how to choose the right anchor). To keep the wind from dragging your boat you may need to drop 2 anchors in a V-shape at the front of the vessel. You also may need to drop the anchors in deeper water (20-30 feet) to keep the tide from lifting the anchor.

Practice boat propeller safety

Photo by Blaine Sledge on Reshot

Boat propellers can cause major injuries that can even lead to death.

  • Before your start the engine, make sure all the passengers are in the boat and make sure no one is in the water near the boat.
  • Keep a close eye out for the children on board, make sure they are not in a place that they could easily fall into the water.
  • If someone falls out of the boat, turn off the engine immediately, locate them in the water, have someone watch them while you circle back around slowly to retrieve them.
  • Turn off the engine when someone is in the water near you and never enter swimming zones with your engine on.
  • Use a propeller guard and other appropriate safety equipment.

Take a look at this propeller safety guide from the U.S Coast Guard.

Take a boating safety course

According to the U.S Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics 2017, nearly 60% of boating accidents happen because of how the vessel was operated which resulted in 295 deaths and 1,727 injuries. The other 40% of accidents were caused by loading of passengers/ gear, failure of boat/ boat equipment, environment, and miscellaneous. This is where you can find different safety courses!

Get your boat checked

The U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free vessel safety checks. There is absolutely no charge and you will not get in trouble if your boat doesn’t pass. Schedule your free vessel safety check here.

Check out last weeks article: 8 Pet Safety Tips for the Summer

By: L. DiBartolomeo July 23,2019