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7 practical boating tips for a safe, fun summer on the water from the BoatUS Foundation

by BoatUS 1 May 12:24 PDT May 18-24, 2024
BoatUS has a downloadable predeparture checklist that you can make your own to start your boating trip right © Boat Owners Association of The United States

How can you make your summer on the water a safe one? With National Safe Boating Week coming up May 18-24, the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers seven practical tips to keep you boating safely all summer long.

These suggestions come from more than 40 years of helping to ensure that every day on the water is a great one, without an injury or fatality.

  1. Follow the dates. Some required safety equipment, such as flares, have an expiration date. Fire extinguishers must be replaced 12 years after their date of manufacture, so you will have to do some math. And if you have automatic life jackets aboard, the dissolvable bobbin inside the inflation mechanism also has an expiration date stamped on the outside. Practically speaking, these dates help ensure the equipment will work when you need it. But don't stop there. While inflatable life jacket inflation cylinders don't expire, a thorough annual inspection of the cylinder and life jacket, including an overnight inflation test, is something you should have on your calendar every season.
  2. Get comfy. 83% of people who drowned in recreational boating accidents in 2022 were not wearing life jackets. To wear your life jacket more often, you need a life jacket you don't mind wearing. There are many styles of life jackets today, such as inflatables, hybrids and special use vest types (eg., fishing, paddling) that are comfortable even on hot days and allow all the movement you need. Wearing yours also influences guests to wear theirs. Regardless, ensure a life jacket is always within reach of everyone aboard. Youngsters should never wear an adult jacket, and if you find yourself short on a correctly sized jacket, go to one of the BoatUS Foundation Kids Life Jacket loaner program locations to borrow one for free.
  3. Brush up on basics. It's been a long winter without boating on your mind. Refresh your boating safety by taking BoatUS Foundation free online course, on-water powerboat training course or brushing up on the rules of the road with the BoatUS Foundation study guide.
  4. Start each outing right. Before a day on the water, take a few minutes before you depart to share a safety briefing with your guests. If an emergency arises, you'll have a team aboard to address it quickly. If you're wondering what to share, download a customizable predeparture safety briefing checklist.
  5. Don't go alone. Let a trusted family member or friend know where you're going, when you expect to return, and what to do if you fail to check in. Having someone ashore who knows your whereabouts and trip plans can potentially shorten a response time.
  6. One hand for yourself. Always be prepared for sudden, unexpected vessel movement by having a firm footing and one hand connected to the boat. With alcohol a leading factor in boating fatalities, it's best the other hand isn't holding a wine, beer or other alcoholic drink - save it for ashore.
  7. Don't rush the startup. For boats with enclosed engine compartments, it is always important to run the blower for a minimum of four minutes before starting the engine and after each refueling. This is especially important after a visit to the gas dock.
For more information on boating safety go to

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