6 Important Boat Safety Guidelines

Boat safety may not always be the most fun part of planning a fishing trip but it is always an important consideration when fishing on a vessel. In addition to making sure I have the right boat safety equipment, I need to know how to stay safe while spending the day on the water. From taking a course to basic safe-boating practices, I always want to make sure my friends and family are safe when enjoying fishing.

Like most things in life, being prepared is key, so taking the time to read this post and implement some of these easy safety tips will make your boat outings even more enjoyable. I’ve created a list of preparations for the boating season. Check out what should be in a boat safety kit and easy-to-follow advice to keep all passengers on a boat trip safe. Keep reading for boat safety ideas that are easy to add to your everyday boating routine.

1. Prepare and Pack a Boat Safety Kit

Boat safety starts with having the right equipment, like having the right lures for a catch. As a boat owner, I must keep my vessel stocked with vital, approved safety items. These are items I must keep on board at all times, every time I sail. A well-stocked boat safety kit should include:

  • A waterproof bag. There’s little point in packing safety items only for them to become damaged or unusable due to water. Make sure to purchase a waterproof bag for your boat safety kit that is easily accessible and visible on the boat.
  • Flare guns. Should you be somehow stuck out on the open waters due to a mechanical failure or some other reason, make sure you have a flare gun with several flares available to signal for help.
  • First aid kit. A standard first aid kit is an important part of boat safety as cuts, scrapes and injuries can happen at any time.
  • Sound-producing device. Likewise, your voice itself isn’t the best to cry for help for long periods or over great distances.
  • Boating safety equipment set. One easy way to make sure you are prepared for anything is to purchase a safety equipment set. They will often come with rope, flashlight, batteries and other items.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Bottles of water. Long exposure under the sun can lead to dehydration especially in kids and grandparents.
  • Skin protection is particularly in open waters like deep sea fishing excursions when the water’s reflection magnifies the sun’s effects.
  • Non-perishable snacks.

2.  Take a Boat Safety Course

I took a boat safety course for additional peace of mind when I take my family and friends out on my vessel. Taking a course in boat safety can be done easily at any time or place, thanks to the abundance of both in-person and online courses. There are courses that specialize in every imaginable topic ranging from safe sailing courses to canoe safety or children’s navigation courses. The most popular boater safety courses have between half to a full dozen lessons to build a good foundation.

3.  Have a Life Jacket Available for Every Passenger

Even though I’m a strong swimmer, I make sure there is a life jacket for myself and everyone else on my boat. Life jackets are part of the essential apparel fishermen should wear on boats and I make them a requirement for all children on board, although every person should wear one. It is important that life jackets for kids fit properly and are worn at all times, as a small child can slip out of a floatation device that is too large.

Accidental drowning without is the leading causes of death while boating, and the vast majority of these deaths were people who were not wearing any flotation device. Therefore, providing a life jacket for each of my passengers is perhaps one of the most crucial items I can do as a boat owner. I keep a variety of sizes, some for adults and others for my kids, nieces and nephews.

    Tip: Children’s flotation devices should not be able to slip up over their ears and must be worn snugly. Boat life jackets must be properly stored and should be tested for both buoyancy and wear at least annually. If you find the jackets no longer are in good condition or perform well, then they must be discarded.

I also keep a throwable a ring buoy on board not only for safety but also cause they’re fun for the kids. Like jackets and other floatation devices are perfect when swimming around the boat for extra peace of mind.

    Did You Know? Modern adult life jackets are available in a variety of styles. This includes discreet thin ones that appear as a scarf until they hit the water and automatically inflate. There are also hunter vests that have built-in flotation devices. Just make sure they are coast guard approved life jackets before purchasing.

4.  Take Advantage of a Free Safety Check

An easy way to make sure your boat is in good condition is to

I can always request a vessel safety check to make sure my boat is in good condition to take out for a day or weekend of fishing. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadron provide this free service. At my request, a certified vessel examiner will do the free safety check on my boat at a time when I’m available.

Download this guide on buying a boat to learn more about selecting the right vessel for you.

I can also verify with the inspector about having all the correct boating safety equipment and ask any safety-related questions I have. If my boat does not get a passing score, then there are no consequences. I will just have a list of items recommended to be fixed.

5.  Avoid Alcohol

An easy boat safety tip that frequently gets overlooked is to avoid the overconsumption of alcohol. I wouldn’t drink and drive with my kids in the car, and I won’t captain my boat under the influence with them either.

Alcohol is one of the leading factors in fatal boating accidents. Outside of that, dehydration and dulled senses are a dangerous combination, so your best bet is to stay away from alcohol completely while on a boat. I like to stick with hydrating drinks such as flat or sparkling water while out on the waters.

6.  Implement the Coast Guard Float Plan

Another free resource I use is the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary float plan. The coast guard float plan makes it much easier for authorities to find and rescue my party in the event something goes wrong or we need help.

Before I take a boating trip, I simply fill out the form and send it to a friend or family member. The plan will include identifying information about my boat as well as about my passengers and planned sailing path. Once I arrive home safe and sound, I let your loved one know the plan is completed.

Learn more about boat ownership by downloading this guide on buying a fishing boat.