Rock Talk

Boat Safety Basics for Summer Fun on the Water

Last updated on November 7, 2019 at 03:10 pm

What could be better than a lazy day on the water with the wind in your hair and sun on your skin? But no matter how experienced a boater you are, it’s always a good idea to brush up on safety. Before leaving the dock check out these tips.

  • Know the forecast. Weather can be unpredictable. Before heading out, check the weather and water conditions. If the weather looks unfavorable, it’s best to postpone your boat day. Similarly, choppy waters can make for a bumpy ride – especially on 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 versus 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 under 13 years of age to wear approved life jackets.
  • Have the right equipment. Make sure your boat is stocked with the right equipment before pulling out of the port. The U.S. Coast Guard created a helpful guide that outlines federal requirements for recreational boats.
  • Pack enough food and water. Whether you’re going out for a quick ride or spending a full day on the water, be sure your boat is equipped with enough water and food for everyone on board.
  • Be smart. Regardless of your boating experience, you’ll likely be sharing waterways with drivers at all levels. To keep yourself, your boat, your passengers and other boaters safe, always keep your vessel at an appropriate speed, steer clear of large watercraft that may be limited in its 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.
  • Take a boating safety course. A variety of courses are 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 board who are familiar with the boat’s 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 all passengers back to shore.
  • Don’t boat under the influence (BUI). According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division, nearly a third of all recreational boating fatalities involved alcohol consumption. On a boat, the effects of alcohol are greatly exaggerated by exposure to motion, vibration, engine noise, wind, spray and sun. To stay safe and avoid potential penalties of BUI including large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms, leave the alcohol on shore.

This list is only a starting point. For more safety information, visit, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division.

While you’re at it, consider giving your car a few summer safety checks too.

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