Rock Talk

Boat Safety Basics for Summer Fun on the Water

Last updated on July 17th, 2018 at 10:01 am

Now that the weather’s warmed and summer isn’t too far off, boaters are preparing to put their vessels in the water for the season. But no matter how experienced a boater you are, it’s always a good idea to brush up on safety. Before you pull out of port with a boatload of passengers, here are some boat safety basics to review to help you have an enjoyable season.

  • Know the forecast. Weather can be unpredictable. Before heading out, make sure weather and water conditions are good. If the weather looks unfavorable, it’s best to take a raincheck on your boat day. Similarly, choppy waters can make for a bumpy ride – especially if you have a smaller boat. In that case, consider waiting until the waters have calmed down.
  • Check the tides. It’s a good idea to plan your maritime excursion around the tides, especially if you intend to ride up rivers or through waters that can become dangerously shallow at low tide.
  • Life jackets are essential. Life jackets are the single most important thing to have on your boat, so make sure your vessel is equipped with enough Coast Guard-approved life jackets for you and each of your passengers. Don’t forget to consider different sizes for children vs. adults. Many states have their own life jacket laws. In the states that don’t have specific requirements, the U.S. Coast Guard requires children less than 13 years of age to wear approved life jackets.
  • Have the right equipment. Make sure your boat is stocked with the right equipment before heading out. The U.S. Coast Guard created a helpful guide that outlines federal requirements for recreational boats. You can download the guide
  • Pack enough food and water. Whether you’re going out for a quick joy ride or spending a full day on the water, be sure your boat is equipped with enough water and food for you and your passengers.
  • Be smart. Whether you’ve been boating for years or are just beginning, you’ll likely be sharing waterways with drivers of all levels. To ensure your passengers’ and your own safety, always keep your vessel at an appropriate speed, steer clear of large watercraft that may be limited in their maneuvering capabilities, and pay attention to buoys and navigational beacons.
  • Consider a free Vessel Safety Check. The U.S. Coast Guard offers complimentary safety checks for personal watercraft upon request. If you don’t pass, there are no consequences. This is simply the Coast Guard’s way of making boating safer for everyone. You can request your free safety check using this form.
  • Take a boating safety course. It never hurts to brush up on boating education. There are a variety of courses available throughout the country, ranging from basic boat safety to reading the weather. The U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division’s website has compiled a list of helpful courses. You can also check out The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water for additional course information.
  • Have a second mate. There should be at least two people on a boat that are familiar with its handling, operations and general boating safety. If the primary operator is unable to operate the vessel, it’s imperative that someone else can safely get everyone onboard back to shore.

This list is only intended as a starting point for your boating basics. For more information on boat safety, visit,, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division.

While you’re getting your boat ready for the summer, consider making a few summer safety checks to your car, too. 

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