The Captain's Blog

11 Safety Tips for Busy Boating Weekends

May 14, 2018 by Michael Kiel

Can you believe that in 2016 there were about 11.86 million registered vessels in the United States? That’s a lot of vessels! With National Safe Boating Week right around the corner (May 19-25, 2018), it doesn’t hurt to refresh yourself about boating safety. The busy holiday weekends and events are coming up, and we hope all boaters use their knowledge, common sense, courtesy, and good judgment to have a safe and fun summer!

Here are 11 boating safety tips to keep you safe during busy boating weekends:

  1. Vessel Safety Check. First things first, it never hurts to do a vessel safety check (VSC). There are two options for a VSC: an online virtual VSC or request an examiner to come conduct a VSC. Both options are free, and it doesn’t cost you if you don’t pass. These are simply to make sure you are practicing safe boating.
  2. Designate an Assistant Skipper. Having an assistant skipper on board reaps many benefits. For one, since your assistant skipper should know your boat inside and out and how it operates, you won’t be alone in your venture. Secondly, your assistant skipper should have knowledge of following proper safety rules and, in the worst case scenario, they are should be capable of operating and navigating the vessel.
  3. Designate a Sober Captain. Your boat is going out, but you want to enjoy a few adult beverages with your friends. Don’t risk a BWI (boating while intoxicated). Designate a driver or hire a captain to ensure everyone is safe: passengers and other boats alike. Sun + Wind + Waves + Alcohol = Boaters Fatigue. This means a decrease in your situational awareness and reaction time. Alcohol is a leading known contributor in fatal boating accidents, according to the 2016 USCG Recreational Boating Statistics. Don’t be another statistic.  
  4. Be Weather-Wise. Boaters should always monitor the weather before taking their boat and passengers out on the water. Weather plays a huge role in how your boat will handle and the status of the waters. Don’t put your boat, yourself, and your passengers in the hands of Mother Nature.
  5. Distance = More Reaction Time. Just like driving a car, keeping a good and safe distance between yourself and someone else allows for a better reaction time if a dicey situation arises. Holiday weekends mean many boaters will be out, so be extra aware of your surroundings and distances.

    busy boating weekends on the lake
  6. Know You Are Held Responsible. By this we mean, as a boat operator, you should not expect another boat to move out of your way. This can go hand in hand with tip #5. It doesn’t matter if you are sharing a heading with another boat or you are on a collision course with another boat, be smart. Read up on the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG) to know exactly what to do in these situations (specifically, Rules 14,15, and 18).
  7. Adjust Speed for Conditions. Visibility not the greatest? Waters seem pretty rough? This one is simple: slow down. This will assure that you and your passengers are safe and that you have more time to react to other boats out on the water.
  8. Turn Off Boat for Passengers. When your passengers are entering or exiting your vessel, turning off your boat will allow them to do so safely. An unexpected injury in a great way to ruin a day on the water.
  9. Check Navigation Lights. If you are going out on the water at night, other boaters need to see you. Always check your navigation lights before you leave for the day or night. This is especially important in the case of poor weather conditions.
  10. Watch Your Wake. The size of your wake can affect many things, like other boats, docks, and property for example. During busy weekends, there will likely be other boaters coving out, so be aware of your surroundings and your speed.

  11. Don’t Overload Your Boat. Not sure if you are overloaded with people? Check the capacity plate on your boat. Don’t have one? Be smart with the overall weight on your boat and be sure every person on board has a flotation device. Side note: Kids under the age of 7 must wear a life jacket while on board. If you need one, check out BoatUS Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program. It is a nationwide program to make sure kids have a life jacket to keep them safe. Through their website, you can find a loaner site near you.

Additionally, be familiar with laws regarding boating operation as well as traditional navigation rules.

Safe boating, everyone, and enjoy the summer holidays and events this boating season! What big weekends will you be out boating? Tell us in the comments!

Michael Kiel