Safe Boating Practices

Boaters must exercise their right to use and enjoy US waterways by taking precautions to share the water safely with others. All boaters are responsible for maintaining proficiency and situational awareness at all times. Also, boaters must take all precautions to ensure everyone on board, and anyone who comes into contact with their boat is safe. 

Most reported boating accidents in the United States involve factors within the boater’s control. 

The most common factors are:

  • Careless boat operation
  • Operator inexperience
  • High travel speeds
  • Operator distraction
  • The movement of passengers on board the boat

Basic safe boating operation and good seamanship by recreational boaters helps to avoid capsizing, falls overboard, ejection, or injuries

Some basic principles of safe boating operation that a boater can follow:

  • Communicate to passengers of intended actions
  • Stress the importance of wearing a life jacket to reduce the risk of drowning
  • Stay centered and low when moving around the boat
  • Avoiding sudden moves
  • Maintaining three points of contact (meaning both feet on the floor and holding on to something to maintain)
  • Load the boat properly, including safe seating locations for passengers and crew
  • Be aware of changing water conditions as well as environmental hazards such as changing weather, local hazards, and submerged obstacles;
  • Be prepared for unintended water entry;
  • Understanding the specific characteristics of their boat
  • Ensure that all safety equipment is in good working order and that the boat is in good operating condition;
  • Stay within a safe speed limit at all times;
  • Comply with all Federal and State Laws and the navigational “Rules of the Road”;
  • Ensure that a relative or friend fully understands the location and the route to the destination by preparing a float plan;

Remember there are additional safety considerations inherent to all small watercraft like:

  • stabilizing the boat for entering
  • boarding safely
  • movement in the boat including keeping the weight centered from side-to-side and bow-to-stern;

Additionally, boaters must adhere to specific security measures prescribed by the US Homeland Security, which include staying a safe distance from military and commercial ships, staying clear of security zones, reporting suspicious behavior to authorities, and avoiding commercial port areas.



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