Operation Management
What You Need to Know About Boat Safety


Nothing beats a day on the boat. You know the enjoyment we are talking about. The sun on your skin. The wind in your hair. And the smell of the water as you hear the comforting sound of the small laps against the boat. It’s paradise – as long as you follow appropriate boat safety guidelines. No sweat (pun intended); we’ve got you covered with all the best boat safety tips you need!

Safety Essentials for Boating

1. Be prepared with a boat safety kit

Know that if an emergency happens, you’re ready to act swiftly. Pack your boat with a safety kit including the following essential items suggested by Nationwide.

  • Flashlight & Batteries – If you’re out at night, this can be especially important if the boat stalls or runs out of fuel.
  • Duct Tape – You can temporarily patch a leak.
  • Bucket – Bearing out excess water from a leak or other accidents is essential.
  • First Aid Kit – Be prepared to assist passengers in an emergency. You can purchase a pre-made kit from most retailers or create your kit per the Red Cross recommendations
  • Waterproof Whistle – With a recognizable sound associated with emergency help, it’s a must.
  • Ropes – This is an all-purpose tool to secure a boat to a dock, assist a passenger that falls in the water, or even tie down items in extreme weather. 
  • Mirror – A reflective object can help signal for help.
  • Garbage Bags – These double as protective wear for passengers or equipment.
  • Fire Extinguisher – Fire can strike anywhere. Be prepared.
  • Life Jackets – Each passenger must have a properly fitted life jacket. 

2. Bring the proper life jackets 

Life jackets are the core safety element of boating. Therefore, all passengers are encouraged to wear a life jacket whenever on a craft. If not worn, at a minimum, the boat must be equipped with one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each passenger. In addition, children should always wear a life jacket.

The National Safety Council advises some general guidance on how to ensure you choose the proper jacket. Start by checking the manufacturer’s label for size and weight specifications. Remember that jackets are for men, women, children, and pets. Once you know you have a proper fit, ensure it is fastened securely. To ensure there is no spare room and the jacket cannot ride up over your face, extend your arms and have a friend gently pull up. Then, adjust the fastener as needed. 

It’s important to be educated before you get on the water. View a list of life jacket rules by state.  And see a complete list of jacket options from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Remember, even good swimmers need life jackets. 

3. Don’t overload the boat with people or equipment

Capacity restrictions exist for a reason. Never overload the boat. Too many passengers or excess equipment can unbalance the craft and lead to an emergency. 

One of the best ways to ensure you have everything you need (but not too much) is to sign up for a free Vessel Safety Check offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Rest easy; no citations are given. Instead, this check helps you verify you’ve met both state and federal legal minimums and increases the chances of safe water travel. 

4. Take a boating safety course

Whether you’re a new boater or an experienced veteran, it’s always good to be fully aware of the boating rules. Boat safety courses are a great resource and should be completed routinely. Classes are usually inexpensive and offered locally, in person or online. Even more, courses can often be completed in just a day. 

View online course options.

View in-person course options.

You can even educate yourself by watching National Safe Boating Council videos. Watch videos at your pace and then test your knowledge at the end of each video

5. Use common sense on the water

The best thing you can do on the boat is to be aware. Basic negligence is the leading cause of boat accidents. Your vigilance is key to keeping everyone safe. Here are some basic actions you can take to ensure boat safety.

  • Know your state’s boating laws.
  • Have a float plan
  • Dress properly. (And bring a spare set of clothes.)
  • Drive at a safe speed. 
  • Adhere to the weight limits of the boat. 
  • Ensure passengers move around the boat safely. 
  • Do not drink and boat. 
  • Wear sunscreen.

Now that you know the most important boat safety tips, it’s time to hop on a boat. Adventure awaits!

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