Recreational boating is one of the leading outdoor recreation activities. It’s no wonder that 11.9% of American households have a recreational boat.

With summer comes warm weather and swimming. And if you’re like most Americans, summertime means it’s time to dust off your boat and head to the lake. But before you set sail, it’s essential to brush up on your boat safety skills.

Every year, thousands of people are injured or killed in boating accidents. If you’re a beginner boater, you can do a few things to prevent such accidents and ensure that you and your loved ones stay safe on the water.

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Here are a few essential boat safety tips you can leverage to avoid boating accidents.

1. Get Proper Training and Licensing

If you’re new to boating, getting the proper training and licensing before taking your boat out on the water is essential. Driving a boat can be a thrilling experience. However, you’ll need to take a boat safety course to learn everything you need to know about operating the vessel.

Depending on your state, you may need to take a boater’s safety course and pass an exam to get your boating license. Make sure you enroll in a boating class that follows a curriculum approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

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The curriculum will equip you with all the information you need to drive different types of boats. Also, ensure you read and understand the instructions on how to operate your boat.

2. Wear a Lifejacket

One essential boat safety tip is to always wear a life jacket. A properly fitted life jacket will keep your head above water if you end up overboard.

According to the Coast Guard, about 75% of fatal boating accident victims drowned in 2020. Of those who drowned, 86% of the victims were not wearing life jackets.

There are different types of life jackets. The best thing is to choose one that’s appropriate for your activity and properly fits both adults and children.

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Ensure that you and other boat occupants have life jackets on. While some states only require your life jackets to be accessible rather than worn, you may not have time to reach for and wear a jacket in case of an accident.

3. Don’t Drink Alcohol

It’s essential to avoid drinking alcohol while boating. Like operating a car, driving a boat under the influence of alcohol is illegal in all states.

Alcohol consumption will impair your judgment, balance, and coordination. It will also decrease your ability to see clearly and make good decisions.

The Coast Guard reports that alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. So, if you’re planning to drink while on your boat, make sure you have a designated driver.

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4. Be Careful When Docking

Docking a boat can be tricky, especially if you’re a beginner. To avoid damaging your boat or injuring yourself, it’s essential to take your time and dock carefully.

When docking, always approach the dock at a slow speed. Make sure you have enough line to tie the boat up. And if you’re docking in a slip, align your boat with the pilings before trying to dock.

If you own a dock, ensure it has proper lighting to reduce the risk of boating accidents when docking at night. You can choose the dock lighting design that suits your budget, brightness, and durability needs.

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5. Have a Float Plan

A float plan is a document that outlines your boating trip. It includes information like where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, and the names of all the people on board. The float plan should also include the contact information for those on the boat and who to contact in case of an emergency.

Creating a float plan is a good way to stay safe while boating. If something happens and you don’t return when expected, your float plan will give rescuers the information they need to find you.

6. Check the Weather Forecast

Before heading out on your boat, check the weather forecast. Bad weather can quickly turn an enjoyable day on the water into a dangerous one.

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If the forecast calls for high winds, large waves, or thunderstorms, it’s best to stay onshore. If you must go out, take extra precautions and prepare for the worst, including knowing where to shelter. You should also notify the people you filed your float plan with.

7. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

When boating, you need to pay attention to your surroundings. Be on the lookout for other boats, swimmers, and obstacles.

If you see another boat approaching, wave them down and give them the right of way. And if you’re passing swimmers, slow down. Be careful not to create a wake that could swamp another boat or knock someone overboard.

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8. Don’t Exceed the Boat’s Capacity

When loading your boat, be sure not to exceed the manufacturer’s capacity limit. The weight of the vessel, cargo, fuel, and people on board should never exceed the maximum weight it’s designed to carry.

Exceeding the capacity limit can cause your boat to list (lean to one side), making it unstable and harder to control. It can also lead to swamping or capsizing if you hit rough water. To stay within the capacity limit, check the label on your boat and the capacities listed in the owner’s manual.

9. Communicate Safety Information to Other Passengers

If you have passengers on board, communicate the boat’s safety information to them. This includes things like where the life jackets are, operating the radio, and what to do in an emergency.

You can also instruct everyone, including children, to remain seated when you’re driving the boat. You should also explain how to use life jackets. It would also help to appoint an observer to help you watch the surroundings and avoid bumping into others.

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Know the Boat Safety Tips Before Hitting the Water

Boating for beginners can be a thrilling experience. But, you need to understand some essential boat safety tips. By following these tips, you can ensure your time on the water is enjoyable and safe.

So, before heading out on your next boating adventure, review the tips in our article. And if you have any questions, be sure to ask a professional.

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