Disclaimer: I am not a spokesperson for the US Coast Guard or ABYC. For an official interpretation of regulations or standards you must contact the US Coast Guard or other organization referenced..   More.....

Boating Safety

Guest Articles

Authors, Read This First:  Articles submitted for this web site must be boating, boating safety, sailing or water sports related.  This can include technical articles about boating gear, equipment, electronics and anything that is used in boating.  Authors will be given full credit and may include a link to other articles they have written, web sites, facebook page, instagram, etc. Photographs accompanying articles must be the author's own work or the author must have written permission from the photographer to use their photograph. Authors and photographers retain full copyright to their articles. I only require authorization to publish their article on this web page only, indefinitely.  I reserve the right to reject any article that does not meet the requirements stated above.  Authors and photographers are free to publish their article or photograph anywhere else they wish.

List of Authors:

Article 1 by Jane Warren TenTips To Follow to Stay Safe During Boating AndWater Sports:
Article 2 by Jane Warren  How To Select The Right Life Jacket
Article 3 by Jane Warren  Rules of the Road

Articles By Jane Warren: These were originally published in 2010 on my Boating Safety BLOG, which no longer exists. This article also appears on Discover Boating. And she has been featured in USA Today

About the Author:

Jane Warren enjoys boating and different water sport activities. She and her husband Jim are residents of Atlanta, Georgia. Each year, they spend several months in Grand Cayman, enjoying the sunny beaches and spending time on the water. While they are there, lots of family and friends come to visit, and they all like to go out on the boat, to fish, scuba dive, raft, and ski.

Jane has also experienced the tragedy of a family death due to drowning. She knows how important it is to follow basic boating and safety guidelines so that all who participate are safe. Using good common sense, and water safety procedures always make each day a “great day at the beach!”



With the warm weather approaching, more people will be heading out to lakes and the beach to enjoy their boats and water toys. It is so important to follow basic water safety guidelines when you are participating in water sports like boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing, or scuba diving. Water sport activities are fun and enjoyable, but unfortunately, people forget the risks involved in these types of sports and don’t take basic and necessary safety measures. According to records from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), approximately 10 people die every day while they are active in some kind of water sports.

Everyone should know the basic safety rules and techniques while they are involved in water sports. There are many individuals who are not professionally qualified for these activities, but still like to participate. So appropriate safety measures should be followed by every individual to make sure they stay safe during their time in or on the water.

1. Always wear a life jacket when you are on a boat or involved in water sport activities. The latest statistics indicate that more than half of boating-related deaths in recent years were due to drowning, and may have been avoided had the victims been wearing life jackets. If you are wearing a life jacket, it will keep you afloat on the water until assistance arrives.

Even if you are a great swimmer, you should still wear a life jacket when you are involved in water sport activities. This is a basic safety measure that should be taken to protect you in the event of a fall or spill. Most water sport activities require wearing life jackets or other personal flotation devices (PFDs). This includes riders on boat water tubes and jet skis, along with water skiers and windsurfers, boaters, canoers, and kayakers – all participants should wear life vests. Make sure that the life jacket is the proper fit, and Coast-Guard approved.

2. You should know how to swim if you want to participate in water sports to the fullest extent. If you are not a good swimmer, then take swimming lessons so that you are able to know the basic swimming technique. This is extremely important for children, who tend to learn quicker than adults. Children learning to swim at a young age can overcome any fear of the water, which allows them to participate in many types of water activities.

3. Speaking of children, many can be fearless when it comes to being in the water. They have very little concern about their own safety or others around them. So, it is the responsibility of the adults to make sure that children stay safe while they are playing or taking part in water sports activities. Keep a close eye on children as they are unable to judge critical situations. Children have a higher risk of drowning so never leave your children alone near or in the water. Assign an individual to keep an eye on children the whole time when they are in the water, or on a boat, and, if possible, have a second adult who can help out.

4. When going out fishing or boating,  file a float plan – let someone know where you are going. Even though you may enjoy this time alone, it can be very dangerous and risky to be out on the water alone by yourself. In the unlikely event that you have a boating emergency, if you have let someone know your plans, the chances for rescue or assistance increase. click here for a Coast Guard float plan form.

5. On the boat, always have safety equipment and supplies with you. This can include: extra lifejackets, cell phone, radio, GPS device, emergency first aid kit, flares, life preservers, flashlight and batteries, extra sunglasses, towels, even bottles of water. Those on the boat should be aware of where these items are located, and how to properly use them. Be sure the equipment is safely stored and secured.

6. When participating in water sports that involve your boat, make sure you each know hand signals that allow you to communicate. If you are pulling skiers, or riders on towable tubes, with multiple riders, make sure they all know the hand signals for OK (tip of index finger and thumb together), faster (thumb up), slower (thumb down), stop (hand slashing the neck), turn (point finger up in circular motion), and back to shore or dock (pat head). And again, all participants should be wearing life jackets to protect them if they fall or roll off.

7. Be aware of the weather. Know both the weather forecast and water condition before heading out. Have a weather radio so you can be updated on the current weather forecast. Avoid going out for any water sport activity if rough weather is forecast. If you are caught in bad weather, head for safety immediately.

8. Make sure your boat is in proper condition and follow safe conduct rules when navigating your boat. Fully inspect the boat before getting out on the water. Check your gauges, fuel, engine, navigation lights, etc. Stay in navigable water, and approved waterways. Most boating accidents are due to operator error, so as the “captain,” take responsibility for your safety and the safety of the occupants of your boat. Don’t take any chances.

9. If you love being on out on the water as much as I do, then you need to be protected from the sun. Wear the appropriate sunscreen, and reapply as instructed, particularly after getting out of the water. Have shirts and hats and sunglasses to further protect you from the glare and rays of the sun. Enjoy the sun, look healthy, but don’t get burned!

10. Avoid alcohol! This may break your heart, but most boating related accidents involve the use of alcohol. Alcohol will slow down your responses, and impair your judgement. It is also illegal in some areas – you could be arrested for Boating Under the Influence (BUI). If you have to drink, save it until you get back to shore, and then enjoy a drink while telling everyon about the “big” fish that got away! Since you weren’t drinking, no one can question your memory!

Water and Boating Safety should be your first priority. It is said that “prevention is better than the cure”. So be safe, enjoy the beautiful days out on the water, and make great memories that all will be glad to tell for many years to come.

How To Select The Right Life Jacket

When the weather begins to turn warm, many people start dreaming of spending a great deal of time out on their boats. Before you head out, stop and think about your life jacket. Do you have one? Is it the proper type and fit for your needs? Did you spend enough time selecting it? If you do not think it is important to put a great deal of thought into selecting a life jacket, think again! It is absolutely imperative that you go about the process correctly; after all, your life may just depend on it.

There are many factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing a life jacket. You cannot base your decision upon your age, your color preferences, or a particular style. You need to consider the following in order to get the best protection:

Get Fitted: There are many different styles of life jackets that come in a wide variety of sizes. Most people simply read the tag and if it says “adult” and matches their weight range, they buy it. This is not the right way to find the right fit. The best way to go about the process is to head to a boating store and have a professional measure you to determine your size. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly, but is not too tight. Never select a life jacket that is loose as it may come off during an emergency.

Decide On A Style: Today there are plenty of style choices available. Long gone are the days of the one choice, bright orange. blocky life jackets. Again, it is a good idea to speak with a boating professional to discuss which style is best for the type of boating you do. There are many lightweight vest varieties available, which allow you to move around comfortably while keeping you cool.

Check The Kids: Just about every state requires everyone on the boat to wear a life jacket at all times. This includes children of all ages. Just as with adults, there are plenty of choices of life jackets for children. From infants and toddlers to teenagers, there is a size for everyone. Many of the styles of today are quite comfortable, which will keep complaining to a minimum. Always check the fit, and remember children grow from year to year, so confirm in advance their life jacket still fits before heading out on the water. Just as with adult jackets, the fit should be snug, and you should not be able to pull it off over their head when their arms are raised.

Do Not Forget Fido: If you are thinking of taking your dog out on the boat with you, you may want to consider getting him or her a life jacket as well. Even though most dogs naturally know how to swim, it may be quite difficult to get the dog back into the boat should he or she fall overboard. Most of the pet life jackets have a handle on the back so you can grab hold and easily get the dog back into the boat.

A Few More Things To Consider

Quite possibly the most important part to selecting a life jacket is to choose one that has been U.S. Coast Guard approved for the type of water in which you will be boating.

If you are concerned about your children keeping a life jacket or vest on while boating, you may want to purchase a more elaborate life jacket that comes equipped with straps that are looped around the back and between the legs, then come together to hook in the front. This will keep the life jacket firmly in place, and eliminate the worry of the jacket pulling off should your child fall overboard.

If you just cannot bear the thought of wearing a “bulky” life jacket or vest, you can purchase a rip cord jacket. These are somewhat thin vests that lay flat and inflate with air when the cord is pulled upon entering the water.

Always know the boating laws for your state, and always make sure you have proper life jackets for everyone on board. It is a good idea to pick up a current guide to boating laws for your area. Most boat dealers, bait shops, and license outlets will provide these guides free of charge. Never gamble with your safety or the safety of others. Life jackets are a very small piece of insurance that can be the best investment you will ever make.

Jane is also very conscious of safety in water sports activities. She lost a cousin in a drowning accident when they were both teenagers, and has seen other close calls for people out on the water. Knowing the basics of water safety, including the use of life jackets, can make the difference in any day at the lake or beach!

Rules of the “Road” for Boaters

Many accidents that occur on the water are collisions of boats or personal watercraft. Everyone who boats should understand the mechanics and rules of navigating boats, so that collisions can be avoided.

Rules of the Road

There are rules to be followed by everyone who operates vessels on the water, and the prime purpose is to avoid all collisions. Copies of the rules, adopted in 1972, are available either online, on the navigation home page on the Coast Guard website, and at most seminars for boating safety. There are separate rules for inland waterways and international waters. You need to be aware of boating safety rules so that the water is a safer place for everyone to sail.

Safety Tips for Boaters

You should always have a person on your boat who can act as a lookout. Many accidents could be avoided if boaters would assign someone to watch the waters for other boats. If you have radar on your boat, this will also be helpful in avoiding any possible collisions. Keeping safety in mind will keep you and all your passengers safe.

If you are driving a boat, you are probably on the starboard side of your vessel. The most likely zone of danger is in front of you and extends to roughly 22 degrees behind the starboard beam. A boat in your danger zone means that you need to be ready for evasive action. Always assume that the other boat has the right of way, even if it may not actually have it. Keep a close eye on the whole danger zone.

If your boat is powered, you should slow down whenever you enter an area that is congested. Traveling at safe speeds will give you the proper time needed to take prompt action, in order to avoid collisions. Keep the rules of navigation in mind at all times. Even during fun times with friends and family, safety is your primary concern.

If you are the boat operator pulling water toys such as water skis, wakeboards, or towable tubes, be sure you are in deeper waters, away from any obstacles such as docks or platforms, and out of traffic waterways. Riders should be wearing appropriate life jackets or personal flotation devices, and should know the hand signals for communication with the “spotter” on the boat.

When you operate boats, keep an interest in gaining more knowledge of boat safety and navigation. Many boaters these days rely on electronics and other equipment for guidance, but if you can navigate without the electronic helpers, you'll be ready for any contingency, and more independent as a driver.

Independent navigation of a boat allows you to chart your course properly and arrive at your destination using only nautical charts, a compass and your own common sense. Navigation courses online are aimed at teaching you ways to safely navigate, using methods from times long ago, before GPS and radar. A course in boat navigation will help to give you the insight and feel of a navigator more seasoned than yourself.

The Earth and Navigation

The earth is a sphere, which means that boat navigators will need more precise coordinates than those found on the simple x and y axis. The coordinate system used by boaters uses meridians and parallels, which make up a grid, allowing you to describe positions on earth by means of latitude and longitude. These measurements are very helpful in boat navigation.

Courses in boat navigation will divide the earth's hemispheres along the equator. Both the Western and Eastern hemispheres also needed a division, and that is found in Greenwich, which can be a bit confusing if you sail near Ireland, since it's in the Western hemisphere and the Netherlands are in the Eastern.

Boat navigation meridians converge at both the North and South poles, and parallels run immediately next to each other, and will never intersect. Earth's equator is the largest parallel line, and the meridians form two immense circles, as the parallels will form circles that are smaller. You can use this information when you are boating, to navigate from one position of latitude and longitude to another.

Electronic Navigation

The GPS unit will show you where you are in terms of longitude and latitude, and will also show you how to get from your present location to the place you plan to go.

A chartplotter works with your GPS unit, to help in interpreting the GPS data and then plotting that data on Electronic Navigational Charts, also known as ENCs. Chartplotters also work with radar systems and Automatic Information Systems, or AIS. They will also show your direction, location and speed.

An autopilot will run your ship without help from you, steering or working the throttle. It is especially useful when you are on a long boat trip and you need some time to relax.

These aids, along with your experience at the helm, can help make boating safer for everyone on the water.

   © 2019  All Rights Reserved 07/18/2019.  Revised 07/28/2019


American Boat And Yacht Council  Boat Design Net  Wooden Boat Foundation

This Web site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of educational, economic, and scientific issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this Web site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for nonprofit educational purposes. For more information see: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this Web site for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Created with Dreamweaver 21.2 © 2022 All Rights Reserved