As a new boater, it’s normal to buzz with excitement as you trailer up your boat, and get ready to hit the launch site. However, this also means that it’s easy to get lost in the moment and forget about safety altogether. Failing to take the proper precautions could spell disaster for you and your crew, so here are 9 safety tips for new boaters looking to stay safe on the water.

1. Remove the Risk of Drowning With Life Jackets.

With more than 70% of boating fatalities being attributed to drowning, data shows that 80% of these individuals were not wearing a life jacket [1]. If you’re headed out onto the water, it is critical that you and everyone in your crew are wearing a life jacket that fits your body weight and size. It doesn’t matter whether you’re headed out to fish, are day cruising, participating in water sports or just sightseeing, a life jacket is a must. If you find that regular life jackets are too bulky, consider purchasing an inflatable life vest as an alternative.

2. Always Steady Yourself With One Hand on the Boat.

Moving around on a boat while in open water is quite a bit different than walking on solid ground. Between the boat pitching back and forth and the unpredictable waves combined with such a small area to walk on, it’s important to move cautiously so as to not fall or injure yourself. Always keep one hand on the grab rails, and in rough water, make sure to tether yourself to the jack lines if you have these installed.

3. Taking Guests Out? Keep Extra Aware of Hazards.

As a new boater, it is important to take extra care when taking guests out on the water. While you may feel very comfortable in your boat, your guests aren’t going to know what potential areas of the boat may pose hazardous to them. For instance, maybe some netting or line was left on the deck, or a cotter pin was left exposed, these create situations where a guest may cut themselves or trip and fall overboard. Clear out any potential obstructions, and remain extra aware of your guests at all times.

4. Be Prepared for Emergencies.

With the luxury of having that new boating experience comes with the added responsibility of being prepared for emergencies. You need to make sure that you’ve done some classes or simulations on how to handle your boat in rough conditions, how to rescue an individual who has gone overboard, and have a full understanding of where your boat’s essential items are located. Create a checklist of your boat’s fire extinguisher, VHF radio, light switches, medical kit, hatches, visual distress signals, sound producing devices, pollution placards, navigation lights, and tool kit and make sure you can find these in the dark.

5. Never Jump, Always Step Off When Anchored.

Whether you have guests aboard or not, always follow the no jumping rule. In an effort to anchor and tie up your boat to the dock at a quicker pace, you may be tempted to jump the clearing between when the boat is approaching the dock, and before it has fully come alongside it. However, something as simple as a misstep or some wind, and you could seriously injure yourself. Always step off your boat when it is alongside the dock, and learn how to handle your boat in close quarters.

6. Don’t Mix Alcohol Consumption With Taking the Helm.

Fishing out on the water with some beers, or having cocktails as you cruise across the lake may be a ton of fun, but you should never mix alcohol consumption with helm control. When your plans include alcohol, make sure that you have a designated driver that stays sober throughout the entire boating experience. If an accident were to occur, whether alcohol or not is involved, you (as the owner) are liable.

7. Learn How to Use Your Anchor.

Even if you don’t plan to drop anchor a lot, knowing how to, and when, is a must. You don’t want to get stuck without an anchor if your engine fails, whether that is due to mechanical failure or due to damage from hitting a submerged object. However, when purchasing an anchor, make sure that you get the right type and size, and always make sure that the line or chain (rode) that connects the anchor to your boat runs smoothly and freely.

8. Create a Check-In Plan With Someone on Dry Land.

Another safety tip for new boaters is to always create a check-in or “float plan” with someone who is staying behind on dry land. This should include a basic description of what your boat looks like, the name of it, as well as the make and model. You’ll also want to include your travel route, destination, and how large your crew complement is. If you don’t check in with your designated person, then they can contact the coast guard. The sooner the coast guard is notified of your absence, the better chances there are for your rescue if something has gone amiss.

9. Take a Boating Class on Safety.

While boating classes are excellent for experienced boaters to brush up on knowledge they may have forgotten about or become hazy on, it’s an absolute must for new boaters who want to be safe out on the water. It is recommended that you take classes in radio communications, navigation, how to use boat safety equipment, trailering, and boating laws.

That’s it for our boating safety tips! If you have any questions about this content, please send us a quick message using our contact form, and one of our boating experts will get back to you! Otherwise, you can check out our other posts for dock owners here, or rent a dock from one of our open listings. Thanks for reading, and happy sailing!