Boating in the sea is different from boating in lakes. You need to be extra careful while boating offshore. Now, we will see the basic tips for boating offshore.
- Check the weather before starting the trip
- Have a float plan
- Keep all the safety equipment
- Wear a life jacket
- Use communication devices
- Use Chartplotter and AIS
- Take enough food and water with on the boat
- Take extra gas with you on the boat
- Educate the crew about the safety equipment
These are the basic things to do or check while boating in the sea. The essential work is to check the weather before leaving and constantly checking the weather while boating as well.
1. Check the weather before starting the trip
This is the essential step to do while going for boating, especially in seas or offshore. Check the weather before starting the trip. The Coast Guard will broadcast all the weather changes 24/7 in channel 16 marine VHF radio. So, look at the news before starting the trip.
Otherwise, follow some apps or websites like the windy app or AccuWeather website or some other websites for the broadcasting news. Sometimes, the weather might be good before starting the trip. But, after starting the trip, 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. The whole ride depends on this step. If the weather is good, start the trip. Otherwise, plan it on another day.
Not only checking the weather before starting the trip, check the weather constantly while boating as well. Generally, you will get to know about hurricanes in the week prior. But, the small thunderstorms or any others will occur within minutes. So, turn on to channel 16 in VHF radio, and listen to them regularly while boating in seas.
2. Have a float plan
A float plan is a good practice to have. Sometimes, this will help you a lot. Tell 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.
3. 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 are boating in seas or oceans and moves far away from the seashore, then you might need all these things 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
- Extra gas(nice to have)
- Duct tape
- Bilge pump
For moving far away from the seashore, those things are sufficient. If you are thinking to stay 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 (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned about all the equipment every boater needs to have it on their boat.
4. Wear a 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.
- 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
5. Use communication devices
Communication devices play a crucial role while boating. Without these devices, you can’t drive a boat peacefully in the water. The basic communication devices are listed below. While boating in the seas, it is good to have all the devices in your boat.
- 1. Vhf radio
- 2. EPIRB
- 3. Satellite phone or messenger
With the help of these, you can tell your location and ask for help by contacting the coat guards or informing your family numbers. The above four devices are enough for communicating with others while boating.
1. VHF radio
Vhf radio is essential for a boat, with the help of this device you can communicate with others (other boaters or coast guards). If you are in an emergency, then by pressing the emergency switch on the back of the radio will send your location to the coast guards or other boaters near you.
This device is essential for boating in seas or oceans. Vhf radio is a very common device you will see on many boats. The most reliable, least expensive, and the best way to get in touch with the coast guards is with the help of VHF radio.
While buying a VHF radio, make sure it has built-in GPS in it, built-in GPS is very useful for a VHF radio. After buying a VHF radio, make sure to make it DSC active.
Every VHF radio will have an emergency switch on the back of the device. If you press that switch, it will send your location (with the help of GPS) to the coast guards or other boaters within the range. You can use that switch if you enable DSC active in it. Otherwise, you can’t.
Many coast guards when there are searching for someone in the sea they will check whether the radio is DSC active or not. What DSC does is it allows coast guards to use your radio transmission and find your exact location very quickly.
Check my article on Communication devices for a boat: All you need(don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned what all communications devices you need while boating and the buyers’ guide for them too.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is essential for a boat because whenever you are in an emergency, you can use this device to send the alert to the coast guards. EPIRB transmits signals directly to the satellite. So, the coast guard will get notified, and they will help you out.
Having this device on your boat while boating in the seas or oceans is very helpful. This device will alert search and rescue services (SAR) in case of an emergency out at sea. It is a tracking device that transmits a signal on a specified band to locate a lifeboat or people in distress.
EPIRB transmits signals directly to the satellite. The signal consists of a digital code that gives information such as the boat’s identification, date of the event, the nature of distress, and the position.
The satellite receiving terminals on the ground (Local User Terminal) uses that digital code and send it to MRCC (Mission Rescue Co-Ordination Centre). The MRCC is responsible for the SAR operations and oversees the execution of the rescue mission.
If the GPS fails. The geosynchronous satellite orbiting around the earth can pick the radio signals emitted by the EPIRB. In this case, we can’t narrow down the boat or user, it will give the close range.
One of the main advantages of EPIRB is if it fell in the water, it will turn on automatically and send emergency signals to SAR.
3. Satellite phone or messenger
The name itself tells us that it is used to call or send messages or sometimes emails with the help of the satellite. If you are in an emergency, then you can inform the coast guards with these devices. These satellite devices are very essential for boaters
It is good to have a satellite phone in your boat as a backup. Especially in seas, if you are not able to contact others, you can use this. This is an optional device.
First, we will see a satellite messenger, then we will see the satellite phones. There are primarily two types of satellite messaging devices, one-way communication device, and two-way communication device. With a one-way communication device, you can only send messages, and you can’t receive any.
With a two-way communication device, you can send and receive messages. There are different types of two-way communication devices. One can only send messages, and other devices can send both messages and emails.
If you buy a big device, then you can use the email option too. With a two-way device, you can send emails too. So, while buying the device itself, you need to decide which one you need a message one or both(message and email).
Still, if you want a bigger option, you can buy a satellite phone for your boat. Whenever you go boating, take a small satellite phone with you. But if you already have a satellite messenger, then no need to buy a satellite phone.
The cost of a satellite phone is a bit higher than a normal phone. Buying a satellite phone isn’t a problem, you can buy one easily. Maintaining a satellite phone is expensive and costs more for every time usage.
You need to buy a subscription plan based on the company you bought your satellite phone. There are only a few models in the market for each company. You can choose their company plans only, not others.
Using a satellite phone is expensive, sometimes it will take 20 dollars for one minute. And again it depends on the plan what you selected while buying.
Don’t stream anything with the help of a satellite phone, it is very expensive. I heard that one guy downloaded a movie using a satellite phone and ended up paying 100,000 dollars. So, don’t use youtube or streaming using a satellite phone.
But, buy either a satellite phone or a satellite messenger, don’t but both of them at a time. If you have a satellite phone, it is enough and vice versa. If you already have a satellite messenger or an EPIRB, then no need to buy a satellite phone.
Check my article on Communication devices for a boat: All you need (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned everything about them and the buyer guide too.
6. Use Chartplotter and AIS
These two devices will be extremely useful for boating in seas. With these devices, you can navigate in the sea.
Automatic identification system(AIS)
It is good to have an Automatic identification system(AIS) in the boat if you are boating in seas or oceans. First, let us find, why do we need to install an automatic identification system(AIS) on a boat.
By installing AIS on your boat, you can communicate with other boaters in the water. You will see whether there are any boats in the given radius or not. If both the boats have AIS, then you can identify the boats, you can find the distance between your boat and theirs, and type of the boat too.
The only problem with an Automatic identification system(AIS) is all the boats need to have them installed on their boat. Otherwise, you can’t locate other boats on your screen.
To locate the location, both the boats need to have them on their boats. But, in reality, many boaters use this device on their boats. So, no need to worry much about that.
You can avoid collisions between the boats with the help of this device. It is like a navigation system, a search rescue system, and all the coast guard boats will use these devices for communication.
Generally, you need to install a class-B type of Automatic identification system(AIS) in your boat. Class-A type is for big passenger ships, and the ships carry the cargo with above 300 tons.
This device will help you a lot, even if you can’t see anything with the naked eyes. You can see the exact location of the other boats with the help of this device. Even if there is any fog, you can use this device.
Range depends on the types of the device you buy. The class – B Automatic identification system has a range of 5 – 10 nautical miles. Which is good and enough for a sailboat(or for many boaters).
The automatic identification system (AIS) will follow certain symbols to tell which type of boat, others are using. Based on that we can take necessary steps.
Chartplotter is another essential device you need to have it on your boat. First, let us find, why do we need to have a Chartplotter or multifunction display on a boat.
Chartplotter is essential for a boat because, with the help of this device, you can see your location (Maps) on the screen, and in which direction you are heading. It is like google maps for a boat. Generally, it is good to have it on your boat.
While you are using a Chartplotter, you feel like you are using google maps on the boat. The basic functionality of the Chartplotter is to set the destination location point and drive in that direction. That’s why I said it is like google maps for a boat.
It is good to have a Chartplotter on your boat it is very useful if you don’t know in which direction you need to travel in the sea or ocean. If you select the location in the Chartplotter, it will navigate your boat in that direction.
Chartplotter won’t tell anything about other boat locations or distances, it is a navigation device for a boat. This device will just navigate you to the selected location. You can see in which direction you are heading in the sea.
7. Take enough food and water with you on the boat
You don’t need to worry about this much if you are boating in a lake. Since you are thinking of boating in the sea, you need to carry some food and enough water with you. Generally, it will take more time to get back to the shore (maybe due to the waves or weather).
If the waves are big, then you need to slow down the boat, and then it might take some extra to get back home. So, it is best to bring enough food and water if you are going for boating in seas or oceans.
8. Take extra gas with you on the boat
Make sure you have enough fuel while boating in rough waters because you need more power to drive through rough waters. More power means the outboard motor will use more gas than normal usage. So, you need more gas while boating in rough waters.
Always bring extra fuel in the boat, especially if you are going for boating in seas or oceans. Your boat will consume more gas, and it will take more time to reach from one place to another in rough waters. So, keep extra gas in the boat.
Always know your boat gas consumption rate, it plays a crucial role, especially while boating in rough waters. If you run off-gas in rough water, then it might be very hard, and rescuing you might be very hard for coast guards as well.
Now assume that your boat will consume 2 liters per hour. If your fuel tank carries 10 liters then you can drive your boat for 5 hours. Now plan accordingly for your trip. How much fuel is there in the tank? how long we can go with that?
9. 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.
These are the basic safety tips for boating in seas or oceans. Check my article on Safety tips for boating: A detailed guide (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the safety tips for boating.
- Check the weather before starting the trip, and check the weather constantly while boating as well.
- Wear an appropriate size USCG approved life jacket. Don’t wear the wrong sized or big sized life jacket.
- Take all the safety equipment.
- Use communication devices like VHF radio or EPIRB if you are in an emergency or need any help.
- Take extra food and gas because you can’t predict how long it will take to go back home.