Let’s get one thing straight – being at the driver’s seat of an incredibly powerful machine does not give you the right to behave like a neglectful fool. Far too often, there are stories of boaters colliding into someone in the water or falling out of their boat, with fatal consequences. In 2020, there were 767 boating fatalities in the US alone, a 25.1 percent increase from 2019. The most common vessel type involved in these deaths was the open motorboat, responsible for a shocking 50%.
Captaining a boat carries significant weight with it, so we’d like to talk through some non-negotiable rules to be aware of.
Passengers on your boat are your responsibility, and anything they choose to do on your boat is also your problem. Therefore, it’s crucial to know the characters and capabilities of the people on board. You need to be able to trust that your passengers will behave themselves and know what to do in an emergency. If you are boating with people you are not entirely familiar with, it can help to ask a few questions before you board, such as:
Can you swim?
Have you been boating before?
Do you know how to use a lifejacket?
It’s a little awkward asking these questions but very important to do so. Additionally, you should establish rules and etiquette for your boat. You might decide you don’t want any shoes or glass on board, and also inform your passengers of any docking or capsizing procedures.
Bodies of Water
There will always be specific rules and regulations no matter where you are boating – open water is not wholly open. Lakes, rivers, and the sea have rules that the coastguard and local law enforcement can impose. Knowing the regulations will stop you from paying a pointless fine in the event of a silly mistake and give you a clear idea of how other boats will react to certain situations on the water.
There are also some helpful universal tips to memorize in terms of navigation. You can find out what to do when overtaking, meeting head-on, and crossing paths by checking out the Boat US Foundation page.
Leave Lots of Room And Control The Boat
If you’re planning a boating event make sure you don’t invite more people than your boat can handle. It can be easy to overload it with passengers or equipment, but that can unbalance the vessel massively. You can apply this concept to other boats too! Some bodies of water require a specific minimum distance (usually around 150ft between boats). However, we suggest you aim for at least double this amount to remove any stress from the boating experience.
Additionally, maintaining distance allows for wave wakes caused by your boat to dissipate before impacting others – a courteous boat driver always pays attention to what they affect. The boat’s wake, the v-shaped wave created as you pass through water, can sometimes be larger than you imagine. Just remember that it is much easier for docks, boats, and shorelines to cope with the wave once it has become long and short.
Help The Community
Great boating lakes are blessed with great boating communities. It is important to help inform your boating community when they step out of line in terms of safety and education. From our experience, people don’t intentionally miscontrol their boats, rather they are ecstatic about driving them and are oblivious to how dangerous their actions are. We recommend politely going up to new members and starting a friendly conversation, particularly if they have been called out on any mistakes.
Following these tips will put you in good stead to enjoy boating in a safe and responsible way so that you don’t have to be preoccupied with uninformed passengers, specific regulations, or the movements of other boats.
Now you know about safety on open waters, do you also know how to store your boat? Check out our blog post on boat storage now!