Boating Safety: What You Need To Know

Boating Safety: What You Need To Know

Boating has been a part of human history for a very long time. It is an ancient and treasured tradition that is done for a variety of reasons from entertainment to survival. Regardless of your goals, one of the most important things when it comes to boating is staying safe.

While boating is pretty safe, it’s not too uncommon to run into a myriad of threating problems from time to time. No matter what kind of boat you’re in, it is essential to be familiar with standard problems boaters might face and to be prepared to deal with them.

Boaters may face some problems while out on the water including but not limited to: loss of power, navigational errors, lack of safety gear, and even an overcrowded boat. In this guide, I’ll go more in-depth on these issues and their solutions.

Family boating.

Your boating can be recreational or even related to work. When everything is running smoothly, you’ll be thanking yourself for planning and being prepared.

Boating can allow valuable time to get away from everything. You can take a moment, put down the smartphones, and get back into nature.

There’s even a charity in the United Kingdom called “Sail into Life” which provides group therapy sessions while also teaching people about sailing. These people, who need and deserve the peace of mind that boating can provide, learn things like helping to maintain the boat, and cook meals for the group.

Now sailing isn’t always picture perfect, and people can run into some difficulty every now and again. Understanding the problems that might arise is the key to overcoming them and mastering the art of boating.

Common Problems And Accidents

Most unfortunate boating accidents occur during the evening and night-time hours when the environment and possible alcohol use might affect one’s judgment. The primary cause of death in boating accidents is capsizing. Although capsizing is caused by overloading or improperly loading a boat, it can also be caused by bad weather.

The second most common cause of fatal accidents from boating-related incidents is someone falling overboard. People might not be being completely careful while on the boat, sitting too close to the edge or fooling around, and drop overboard. It’s also possible that someone might fall out of the ship with a sharp turn.

An overcrowded boat can also lead to issues like capsizing. This is the same as overloading a ship with unbalanced weights. The natural movement of groups or unstable equipment can lead to long-term damage or a more considerable difficulty when attempting to steer through rough water.

Another issue, although not usually fatal, is the loss of power. A boat could lose power for any number of reasons. If your boat loses power and you’re a long way from shore, you could be in some serious trouble.

Navigational errors also might be a problem for you. Sometimes people get lost, it’s not unbelievable. It happens to the best of us. If you have some severe navigational issues, you might end up many miles from where you’re supposed to be.

Boating accidents can occur in absolutely any waterway at any time of day. We say this because another of the main causes of boating accidents is improper forward watch. This means not being aware of exactly where your boat is headed.

Someone who isn’t completely aware of their surrounding might end up crashing into something, or even another boat. Make sure you’re aware of local hazards and stay alert and mindful.

Some people make lack the necessary safety gear. If something does occur while out on the water, having the right safety gear can make things a lot easier, and maybe even prevent a fatality.

You should always have with you: floatation devices, a buoyant heaving line, a waterproof flashlight, a sound signaling device, a manual propelling device (like a paddle), a bailer, and a fire extinguisher, depending on the size of your boat.

Boating accident.

All of these common issues are preventable in some capacity.

Accident Prevention And Solutions To Common Problems

The most important thing when it comes to accident prevention is to be prepared. As long as you aren’t overloading your boat, the more safety gear you have, the better. Preparation can also come in the form of having a plan for your boating trip, making sure your boat and everything on the boat is in order and checking the weather.

Safety Gear

A floatation device could save your life in a lot of situations. A buoyant heaving line is thrown to a person in distress in the water to help them climb back on board. This can be particularly useful in the case of a man overboard.

A waterproof flashlight can always be useful. If it’s dark out and you need to see something or make a quick repair, a waterproof flashlight could be a lifesaver. There have been many situations where I’ve forgotten my flashlight and could have used it.

A sound signaling device would be useful if you lose power or are stuck for whatever reason. A sound signaling device emits a powerful noise which can alert nearby boaters. Different sound signaling devices emit sounds to different distances and are a good thing to have with you.

A manual propelling device could also be useful in the event of a power failure. If you’re on a smaller boat, a paddle is good enough. Just in case you’ll have to return to shore manually, it’s a good idea to keep a manual propelling device on board.

A bailer is a device used to remove water from a boat. This kind of device has been around for a very long time and can be very useful, in both serious and non-serious cases alike. In its simplest form, it’s just a container that can be filled with water and then thrown overboard. In the case of a breach or just some general water seeping in, a bailer can be useful.

Boating safety gear.

Depending on the size of your boat, you may also want to have a fire extinguisher. If you’re on a smaller boat, it may not be necessary, but it’s never a truly bad idea. Fires can start on a boat for any number of reasons. They’re usually caused by electrical issues.

Checking Your Boat

It’s imperative to inspect your boat thoroughly. Start with a quick look at the outside of your boat. Look at the hull. Are there any cracks that need to be repaired? Look for signs of seepage. Check your boat wiring. Check for corrosion near the motor and dashboard.

You can also test the fuel and oil. Most gasoline is sold with about 10 percent ethanol, which could lead to water in your engine. You don’t want water in your engine because it can lead to long-term processing problems when you try to run it for longer periods.

Water in your oil can also be a problem, arguably worse because of the lubrication issues that lead to friction that impedes function. You can use something called gauging paste to identify the presence of water.

Open the hatches. Do you smell gas or see water? That’s a bad sign. Check the upholstery. Look for green around the edges which could indicate a large amount of growth hidden away. Make sure everything is in its place, and everything is ready to go.

Making A Plan

Make a plan for your boat trip. What time are you leaving? Where are you going? What are you going there to do? How long will you be gone? What’s the weather going to be like? Is it windy? Who is coming with me? Does someone know we’re gone? All of these are questions that should be answered ahead of time.

A plan for boating in the form of a document is also sometimes referred to as a Float Plan or a Trip Plan. Your float plan should include the name of your boat, the type of boat, the boats size and color, its registration number, the year and make, the type of engine, and its unique features.

Your Float Plan should also include a list of your boat’s safety equipment. The list should include things such as sound signals, visual distress signals, anchors, navigation equipment, charts and maps, and the number of life jackets on the boat.

You should also mark down some information on the passengers. Write down the name of the person driving the boat, their address, and telephone number. Also write down the number of other passengers on board, and their names.

Finally, your Float Plan should include a small summary of your trip. Write down what time you’re going to be leaving, what time you’re going to return, the route you plan to take, and instructions in case of emergency.

To have the safest trip possible, planning is essential. By making a plan ahead of time, you’re setting yourself up for success. By knowing where you’re going and at what time, you can check the weather in advance, which can prevent you from running into any unexpected weather-related situations.

You can prevent a lot of accidents by traveling on days where the weather is calmer. Less wind and rain means less worry for you. Fog can also be detrimental to a good boating trip, making it harder to see; and you more likely to crash into something.

It’s good to let someone that’s not going to be on the boat know where you’re going, and what time you’re supposed to be back.

Float plan.

If someone outside of your party knows where you’re going and when you’re supposed to be back, they’ll look for you and potentially be your savior if you don’t show up. That Float plan you wrote should be given to someone you trust before you leave.

Boating In The Right Conditions

Make sure that whoever is driving the boat is sober and clean. Being under the influence can negatively affect one’s ability to control the boat properly and should never happen. Hundreds of people die each year due to boating-related activities, and about 65% of these deaths involve alcohol use.

There isn’t any safe way to use alcohol and drugs while boating. It just isn’t okay. Most people would never get into their car after a night of drinking for the risk of endangering themselves, and other people would be too great. Why take the risk while boating?

It’s reported by the Red Cross that at least 37% of boaters in Canada admit to using alcohol while boating every time. About 66% of Canadian boaters said that they drink alcohol sometimes while boating and probably much more won’t admit it.

Alcohol accelerates hypothermia; it affects depth perception, focus, and vision negatively. It impairs motor skills and cognitive function (such as processing information and effectively judging situations). Never let anyone whose intoxicated operate a boat.


Compared to many other things, boating isn’t the hardest thing to get into. Understanding the nuances can go a long way, and in the world of boating, there’s not a whole lot you have to worry about. You follow the steps, you do your research, and everything will be fine.

Once you’ve purchased all of the necessary safety gear, and gone over your boat making sure everything was in order and made/ gave a Float Plan to someone you trust, you’ve pretty much done everything that you can.

In the unfortunate event that something does go wrong on your boating trip, you’ll be ready to deal with it, and in the best possible situation given the circumstances. Let’s just say that if you were unprepared, at the moment, you might wish you could go back and do your research.

People boating.

The world of boating is one of adventurous and full of opportunity both good and bad. It’s been a pleasure going over the various ins and outs of boating safety and accident prevention. Hopefully, this guide has helped you better prepare for an exciting and safe boating experience.