While boating, safety is essential for everyone in the boat. Everyone should protect themselves and others from dangers while boating. Here are some of the safety tips for boating.
- Wear an appropriate life jacket
- Keep all the safety equipment
- Check the weather before leaving
- Tell your float plan to friends or neighbors
- Follow the boating rules
- Wear appropriate shoes while boating
- Tie the kill switch to your life jacket
- Don’t drink and drive the boat
- Look around you
- Be careful in shallow water
- Drive the boat safely
- Educate the crew about the safety equipment
- Take a boating safety course
- Wear sun-protective clothes and sunscreen
- Bring enough food and water
- Don’t overload the boat
- Maintain proper distance between the boats.
- Take care of kids while boating (if any)
These are the basic safety steps to do while boating. You need to be extra careful while boating, and you need to take care of others as well.
1. Wear an appropriate life jacket
A life jacket is essential for everyone while boating. Each year around 300+ people are dying from drowning in any boating-related incidents. About one in five people who die from drowning are children, 14 and younger. Life jacket plays an essential role while boating.
Problems of not wearing a proper size life jacket
Simply wearing a life jacket isn’t enough that should fit you as well. The life jacket shouldn’t be too big or small, it should fit properly. If you wear a big sized life jacket and suppose if you fell in the water, then due to the force at which you may fell in the water, a life jacket may come out. So, wear an appropriate life jack of your size.
Choosing a life jacket
While buying a life jacket make sure it has a small whistle on it. If anyone falls overboard, and no one knows that someone has fallen overboard, then you can use the whistle to signal others. So, they will come to know your exact location quickly. Nowadays some of them are having a small light on it as well, which is helpful while boating at night.
Most of the kids will be in different body shapes, and it is hard to tell the correct life jacket based on the chest size. The weight of the kid is important because you need to pick a life jacket based on the weight, then you can tell whether the life jacket is capable of lifting the body or not.
For adults, life jackets size is based on chest size. For kids, it is better to choose based on the weights. In the below table, I mentioned which type of life jacket to wear based on age (years and weight may vary a little bit).
(0 – 3 years)
|8 – 30 lbs.||Type 2||Yes|
3 – 6 years
|30 – 50 lbs.||Type 2 or|
6 – 12
|50 – 90 lbs.||Type 3||Yes|
|12 years +||90 lbs +||Type 3||Yes|
Most children and youths should use a Type III USCG-approved model life jacket. Whereas, infants should use a Type II USCG-approved model life jacket.
If you are choosing a life jacket for infants, then make sure that it has padded head support to help keep the child’s head above water, grab handles to assist in retrieving the child out of the water, and crotch strap to help keep the PFD from riding up.
- Type 1 is for adults, and it is used for offshore purposes.
- Type 2 is for infants, and it is used in inland day cruising, fishing, and sailing.
- Type 3 is for a child, and it is used in various sports activities and the most comfortable for continuous wear and freedom of movement
2. Keep all the safety equipment
Without the safety equipment, you can’t travel peacefully in the water. Safety equipment is a must for a boat; one day, it might save your life. Here are some of the essential safety equipment for a boat. You shouldn’t carry the same safety equipment every time it should vary from places to places.
If you boating in closed waters (lakes or ponds), then you might need the safety equipment listed below.
- Life jacket for each person
- life ring for each person
- Flotation devices
- Whistle or horns
- VHF radio optional(nice to have a small radio)
- Paddles or oars
- Depth finder(nice to have)
- First aid kit(don’t forget to check the expiry date)
- Fire extinguisher
- Tool kit
- Extra gas(nice to have)
- Duct tape
- Bilge pump
For boating in closed waters (lakes and ponds), those things are sufficient. Mostly, you don’t need a VHF radio in closed waters. If you are boating in a big lake or less crowded areas, then you might need it.
If you are not boating in closed waters (seas or oceans) and moves far away from the seashore, then you might need all the safety equipment listed below.
- Life jacket for each person
- life ring for each person
- Flotation devices
- Whistle or horns
- VHF radio, EPIRB
- Satellite phone or messenger is optional (but nice to have as a backup)
- Chartplotter is like GPS for a boat (for navigating)
- Automatic identification system (AIS)
- GPS optional (all the above devices have it already)
- Thermal imaging camera (if you are boating at night)
- Paddles or oars
- Depth finder
- First aid kit (don’t forget to check the expiry date)
- Fire extinguisher
- Tool kit
- Duct tape
- Extra gas (nice to have)
- Bilge pump
- Maps (optional)
For moving far away from the seashore, those things are sufficient. If you are thinking of staying in the boat at night, then you might need to know the night navigational rules.
Check my article on Safety equipment for a boat: 31 things you need (opens in a new tab). In that article, I mentioned about all the gear every boater needs to have it on their boat.
3. Check the weather before leaving
This is the first thing you need to do while you are thinking to go for boating. You need to check the weather before going boating. Follow some apps or websites like the windy app or AccuWeather website or some other websites for the broadcasting news.
Your whole ride depends on this step. Sometimes you might be boating in a lake or sea, and suddenly the weather might change. Weather can change very quickly, so you need to prepared for everything. You should have a plan for coming back to the shore quickly if the weather changes.
Overall, you need to check the weather before starting the ride, and you need to have a plan for coming back safely to the shore if the weather changes while you are boating in the lake or sea.
Check my article on Safety tips for boating in rough waters (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the tips you need to follow while boating in choppy waters like seas or oceans.
4. Tell your float plan to friends or neighbors
Sometimes, having a float plan will help you a lot. Don’t forget to give your full float plan (exactly where you are going, how long it will take to come back home, and how many people are going) to one of your friends or neighbors. Just in case if you didn’t reach your home in time, they will help you.
If you didn’t show up early, your family members or friends will inform to coast guards about your float plan and everything. Then the coast guards will make the move quickly and they will find you quickly.
While boating, if you change the plan or if you modified the plan, don’t forget to inform your family members or friends. If you think that you might show up late, even then inform your family members or neighbors. It is a good practice to have a float plan and informing others.
5. Follow the boating rules
Knowing the boating rules is essential if you are driving the boat. Without knowing them, you might cause problems for you and other boaters as well. Some of the basic rules are listed below, check the USCG website for a complete guide.
Suppose, if someone comes in the opposite direction, then you need to turn a little bit towards the right side, they also will do the same. If you don’t know the rules, then if you turn towards the left side, you might hit the boat, which is coming in the opposite direction.
The basic rules for a boat are (Now assume that you are driving the boat, and you see the boat approaching, then do accordingly, the boats are moving in X-axis direction, and you are moving in Y-direction assume like that).
- If the boat is moving towards the left side. Then you should give them the way, let them cross first and then you make a move.
- If the boat is moving towards the right side. Then you should give them the way, let them cross first and then you make a move.
- If you see the boat coming in the opposite direction, then you need to move a little bit towards the right side and then move on.
These are some of the basic boating rules, you need to know while boating. So, don’t forget to check the USCG website for more boating rules. The better way is to take a small boating course, many of them are free.
6. Wear appropriate shoes while boating
While boating, wearing proper shoes is essential not only for parents as well as kids. If you are not wearing proper shoes, then you might slip in the boat. There are some specified shoes for boating, and it is good to wear them while you are in a boat.
There is a high chance of boat floor becoming wet while boating. If the boat floor is wet, then you might slip easily on the boat. To prevent that, everyone needs to wear boating shoes, which are made up of neoprene material.
The neoprene material is good for water resistance and has a good grip. This fabric boasts tough water-resistant properties and the ability to withstand temperatures down to -20. It has a good grip, so you no need to worry about slippery floors or any in the boat.
Check my article on Recommended shoes for boating (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned about everything you need to consider while buying shoes for boating.
7. Tie the kill switch to your life jacket
The essential thing you need to do while boating is to tie the kill switch to your hand or life jacket or PFD. If the engine is on, then you need to tie the kill switch. Let’s see why do we need to tie the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF.
You need to tie the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF because while operating the boat, if you fell overboard in the water, then the boat will be moving in the forward direction, and you can’t reach the boat. To prevent that, we are tying the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF.
What it does is if you move away from the steering wheel, then the key will come out and stop the engine. So, if you fell overboard, you can reach the boat and you can climb and get into the boat quickly.
This will be extremely helpful if you are alone on a boat, and if you fall off a boat. The boat will stop automatically. Else, the boat will be moving forward in the water, and sometimes you can’t reach the boat. This will be the worst situation.
8. Don’t drink and drive the boat
Boating under the influence is causing the majority of deaths in America. According to the united states coast Guard, 287 accidents happened due to driving under influence. So, boating under the influence causes many problems.
Boating under the influence can affect your balance, which is very crucial in the boat. When you are unstable in moving platforms (like a boat), you can easily fall overboard. Alcohol decreases the ability to react to several different signals at once. So, don’t do boating under the influence.
If you are boating under the influence and fall overboard, then it is very difficult to get back into the boat. Suppose, if you are alone in the boat, then it is very hard to get back into the boat. If you are not alone in the boat, then with the help of your friends, you might get in the boat.
With alcohol in your blood, the numbing effects of cold water occur much faster than when you are sober. Within minutes, you may not be able to call for help, swim to a float, or reach the safety of the boat.
Check this Boatus website on boating under influence click here (don’t worry, it will open in new tab).
9. Look around you
According to the coast guard of the united states, 620 accidents happened due to operator inattention in the year of 2017.
Checking the surroundings is crucial while boating. You need to see the surroundings and then make the move accordingly. You need to see whether there are any obstacles in front of you or any boat is coming closer to you or not and like that.
The movement you get into the boat, you need to check the surroundings and remember other boat locations (if any) and watch their movement, whether they are coming closer to you or not, and checking the depth constantly is essential too.
If you are boating in fog or at night, then observing the surroundings is a must because you can’t see anything properly. Sometimes, based on the sound signal given by the big ships, you need to make the move, and sometimes based on the light signals given by other boats, you need to make the move.
Sometimes, you might save others by observing the surroundings. So, observe the surroundings regularly to avoid any problems while boating and know the basic boating rules to communicate with other boaters properly.
10. Be careful in shallow water
If you are not driving the boat in shallow water, then you need not worry about this. Mostly, you will encounter this if you are boating near the shore of the lake or pond or rivers.
Boating in the shallow water may damage the lower part outboard motor (propeller) or the hull if you hit the sandbar. It is expensive to get it repaired. So, be cautious if you are driving the boat in shallow water.
If you are boating in muddy water or boating at night, then you might not see the depth of the water with your eyes properly. To find the water depth, you need to install depth finder in your boat. Nowadays you can find the water depth with fish finder too.
Knowing the water depth is very helpful, you can avoid so many accidents by finding the depth in prior. By installing the depth finder in your boat, you can operate the boat peacefully in the water, without bothering about the depth.
Check my article on 12 Tips for boating in shallow waters (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the things you need to see or check while boating in shallow water.
11. Drive the boat safely
It is the essential thing you need to do while boating. You should drive the boat safely. Else, it might cause problems, not only to you, for other boaters as well. Some of the basic things you need to follow are listed below.
- Tie the kill switch to your life jacket.
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Be careful in shallow water.
- Operate trim tabs properly.
- Know the controls properly.
- Look around you.
- Know about your boat.
These are the basic rules you need to follow to drive a boat safely in the water. But the whole safety depends on the operating person. Like how he is operating the boat? Does he follow the rules?
Check my article on Driving a boat safely: A complete guide (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). I that article, I mentioned all the safety measures you need to take while operating the boat.
12. Educate the passengers about the safety equipment
You need to explain to the passengers how to use the safety equipment and where they are kept in the boat. They might help you out if you are not able to take them by yourself while driving the boat.
This step is essential for every person in the boat. The boat operator should tell where all the safety equipment is kept in the boat. If they didn’t tell, ask them. Kids also need to know where all the safety equipment is kept in the boat.
Sometimes the skipper might be in a hurry or busy, and he might not be able to take the safety equipment by himself. At that time, the crew in the boat will help if they know where all the safety equipment is kept in the boat. If you fall overboard, then you can ask your crew members to through a life jacket near you.
And keep all the safety equipment in a reachable distance, and don’t keep any of them in faraway places in the boat, where you can’t take them quickly.
Not only telling them (crew) where all the safety equipment is kept in the boat, but you also need to teach how to use them too. Then only they can save others if someone falls overboard. No need to teach them about every safety equipment in the boat, teach them the basics.
Teach the crew about some basic safety equipment (like life jackets throwable flotation devices, horns, flares, fire extinguisher). Knowing these things is sufficient. Don’t forget to tell them why do we need to use these things.
So, they will get to know about the safety equipment, and they will know what all are needed and how to use them in the right situations.
13. Take a boating safety course
There are paid courses and free courses as well. BoatUS Foundation Online Course is a free course that can be completed online by participating in six lessons and completing the final exam. Choose when and where to take your course. Take it on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone.
Check this Boatus website on the courses offering by them click here (opens in a new tab). In this, they listed all the available courses.
14. Wear sun-protective clothes and sunscreen
Sunburn is another worst thing that can happen to you if they didn’t apply the sunscreen lotion. Melanin is a chemical in the skin that protects the skin from sun damage by reflecting and absorbing UV rays. Generally, sunscreen is essential for the one who has less melanin in the skin.
People with dark skins have a high level of melanin in their skin, and people with light skins have a low level of melanin in their skin. For both the people, they need to apply sunscreen. That’s why light skin people will get sunburn quickly than dark skin people.
Choosing the sunscreen
Regardless of age, always choose a sunscreen that’s broad-spectrum, meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF 30 at minimum. UVA rays prematurely age skin, while UVB rays cause sunburns. SPF refers to how much UVB light sunscreen can filter out.
Many dermatologists prefer physical (a.k.a. mineral) sunscreens made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which deflect sun rays, whereas a chemical sunscreen absorbs them
Water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher will be the safest choice for anyone. This ensures your sunscreen protects against both harmful UVA and UVB rays.
While choosing the sunscreen lotion, make sure that it has these features.
- SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher
- Protects against both UVA and UVB rays(a Broad-spectrum sunscreen)
- Water-resistant (protects kids while in the water for 40–80 minutes)
The above-mentioned things are essential if you are using sunscreen between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (when the sun’s rays are strongest). In the below table, I mentioned what SPF to use for different ages.
|Age (in years)||SPF|
|0 – 5 years||50|
|6 – 10||30 – 50|
|11 – 17||30 or 30 +|
|18 +||30 or 30 +|
In the below table, I mentioned the protection and how long it will last for each SPF range. The values will vary depending on the usage. Generally, you can calculate how long it will last by SPF value times 10, then you will get the time.
|SPF||How long it|
will last (in hrs.)
|How much UV rays|
it will prevent
|15||3 hrs.||93 %||7 %|
|30||6 hrs.||97 %||3 %|
|50||8 hrs.||98 %||2 %|
|100||16 hrs.||99 %||1 %|
There is no big difference between the 30, 50, and 100 SPF sunscreens. This means the protection doesn’t double if you use 100 SPF sunscreen. Many people will suggest using at least 30 SPF sunscreen.
So, if you are using a sunscreen with SPF 30, then shifting to SPF 50 won’t double the protection. It only increases by 1%. So, don’t unnecessarily use a sunscreen with high SPF. Sometimes, it might damage the skin(but there is no official proof for this).
Check this utexas website for more info click here (don’t worry, it will open in new tab).
Where to apply them
Sunscreens come in different forms such as sticks, sprays & lotions. Select one that will be easy for you to apply to you. Sunscreen expires within two years or less. Have a look at the manufacture & expiry date before purchasing and using a sunscreen.
Make sure to reapply sunscreen frequently, at least every two hours, and more often if you are dipping in and out of the ocean or lake or sea. Apply it on the face completely. Don’t forget about ears, hands, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Protect lips with an SPF 30 lip balm.
Check how long it is water-resistant, sunscreen will come with 40 min to 80 min water resistant time. Usually, up to 80 minutes, and then you have to reapply. Apply sunscreen at least 20 to 30 minutes before you go outdoors, whether it’s a cloudy or a sunny day.
After applying sunscreen don’t forget to keep it in the cold place. Don’t keep in the sunlight, keeping sunscreen in the heat and exposing it to light will cause it to break down faster.
15. Bring enough food and water
Just take some food water with you on the boat. Even if you are boating for an hour or two, take plenty amount of water with you on the boat. While boating on a sunny day, you need to drink more water to stay hydrated. So, take more water with you on the boat.
If you are thinking of stay on a boat for a while, then take some food with you on the boat. And take a small cooler with you on the boat. So, you can drink some cool drinks while boating.
16. Don’t overload the boat
This is an essential thing you need to check whether your boat is exceeding the capacity or not. For many boats, you can see the weight capacity of the boat near the stern or somewhere else with a yellow color sticker. The maximum weight is the combined weight of passengers, gear, and motors.
If the weight capacity of the boat exceeded the maximum limit, then the boat might tilt or tip over or capsize, and everyone may fall in the water. Sometimes, people might trap under the boat. To prevent all those things, don’t overload the boat.
If you don’t have the boats maximum weight capacity sticker on the boat, then follow the rule of thumb for finding how many members can sit in a boat.
You can find that by using this formula. Length of the boat times width of the boat divided by 15. Then you will get how many members can sit in the boat. In this case, the weight of each person is the average weight (around 150 lbs).
Suppose the length of the boat is 15 feet, and the width of the boat is 5 feet. Then the seating capacity is (15 * 5) / 15 = 5 members. Calculate like this for your boat, if you don’t have the boat capacity sticker.
17. Maintain proper distance between the boats
This is an essential thing to do while boating to prevent any boat collisions. Maintain at least 50 feet or more distance between your boat and other boats to prevent any collision.
While boating, if any big wave comes, then the boat will shake, and the boat might get out of the path. If there are any other boaters near your boat, then you might hit them.
18. Take care of kids while boating (if any)
- Don’t forget to give your kids a life jacket to wear in the boat. It should fit properly as well. Remember that swimming aids such as water wings or inflatable arm rings are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket or PFD.
- Teach the kids how to use the safety equipment and tell their locations in the boat as well. Sometimes, it may save your time, and they will help others too.
- Keep an eye on them while the boat is moving. Kids won’t be calm in the boat you need to check them regularly. Give them some work so that they will concentrate on that.
- Bring extra fruits and snacks while boating. Bring all the clothes and be ready with warm clothes, blankets, etc. Bring the cooler as well for keeping any cold item for kids.
- Finally, apply sunscreen. For kids, less than 5 years with SPF 50, and for kids above 6 years use a sunscreen with SPF 30 and +. Don’t forget about ears, hands, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Protect lips with an SPF 30 lip balm.
Check my article on Safety tips for boating with Kids: A detailed guide (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned everything you need to for kid safety while boating in detail.
- Always check the weather before starting the ride. The whole trip depends on this step.
- A life jacket is a must for every person on the boat. You need to wear a proper-sized life jacket, and it should fit as well.
- Knowing the boating rules is essential if you are driving the boat. Without knowing them, you might cause problems for you and other boaters as well.
- Without the safety equipment, you can’t travel peacefully in the water. Safety equipment is a must for a boat, one day it might save your life.
- Teach all the crew members in the boat how to use the safety equipment as well.
- Don’t overload the boat If the weight capacity of the boat exceeded the maximum limit, then the boat might tilt or tips over or capsize, and everyone may fall in the water.
- Bring enough food and water.
- Apply the sunscreen, don’t forget about ears, hands, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Protect lips with an SPF 30 lip balm.
These are the essential things you need to do while boating, to protect yourself while boating, and not to cause any problems to others as well. Boating is a fun sport, don’t hesitate to follow the rules while boating.