Boating trips are not only relaxing but a fun bonding experience for friends and family. Feeling the cold ocean breeze and the warm sunlight hitting your skin while enjoying the view works wonders for anyone tired from long workdays. And with most locales are reopening their doors after months-long travel restrictions, the ocean is a sight for sore eyes.

Whether you already have a boat or still checking out boats for sale near you, it’s essential to understand and practice safety precautions before departing the dock. This blog will discuss some key points to consider so you can enjoy your boating trip without worries.

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8 Important Safety Tips Before a Boating Trip

  • Take a boating safety course
  • Know the nautical rules
  • Make a pre-departure checklist
  • Inspect your boat prior to departure
  • Stay updated with the weather
  • Develop a floating plan
  • Avoid overloading the boat
  • Trust your common sense

Take a Boating Safety Course

The first important step before venturing on the open seas is to take a complete course in boating and boating safety. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that operational error is the leading cause of boating accidents, accounting for around 70% of reported cases.

Many courses are available online, with some even offering these classes free of charge. These courses help you get familiarized with basic terms, navigation, and what to look out for while boating. Some, like the Boat U.S. Association, have free classes specifically designed for each state. The Coast Guard also has some online and hands-on courses that teach and enhance boating safety.

Know the Nautical Rules

Like traffic rules on the road, there are nautical rules in place to protect the boat driver and other drivers in the area. Knowing what to look out for while driving on your boat, like buoys and other navigational aids, help maintain order on the open seas.

Aside from the nautical rules while driving, learn about the proper docking and anchoring procedures prior to setting sail. There are specific rules to follow when anchoring and docking boats, and ignoring them could cause problems to your ship and your trip as a whole.

Make a Pre-Departure Checklist

Having a pre-departure checklist handy will help in ensuring all the essentials are in place before revving up the engine and departing the dock. The index, available in digital and printable formats, shows an itemized list of what you should look at, what should be working, and what to avoid. Some of these include:

  • Life vests
  • Sound producing equipment
  • Lights
  • Distress Signals
  • Ventilation, and
  • Battery care, among others

Note: When shopping for safety supplies and equipment for your boat, make sure to try them out before purchasing. This way, you’re confident that they work as expected when the need arises and not be surprised with a faulty product.

Inspect Your Boat Prior to Departure

Check your boat before leaving the dock. Make sure that it is adequately maintained, especially the engine. Have your repair tools within reach in case there is a need for repair. Inspect the watercraft for any holes, dents, or physical damage that could affect the boat’s performance.

If you notice any surface damage or are unsure of the boat’s condition, better have a professional maintenance service check out the vehicle. Their expertise can adequately assess the situation and provide you with guidance as to what to do next.

Stay Updated with the Weather

The weather plays a significant role in ensuring a safe and enjoyable boat trip. Warm, sunny days are perfect for boating, but there’s no assurance that the clear skies won’t turn dark and stormy.

Most smartphones nowadays have downloadable GPS and weather apps, where it shows weather forecasts per area. You can also consult online weather reports before leaving the docks. If there’s any chance of rain or strong winds, it’s advised to skip the boating session to avoid any trouble in the long run.

Develop a Floating Plan

Before leaving, ensure that you’ve provided your family members or the local staff at the marina with your float plan. Essentially, a float plan contains detailed information about each passenger on the vessel that could be used in an emergency. You can draft this yourself or download a fillable form online.

Float plans should include the following details:

  • Passenger name
  • Passenger address
  • Trip leader and passenger’s phone numbers
  • Boat type and registration information
  • Trip itinerary
  • Types of communication and signal equipment onboard: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

Avoid Overloading the Boat

As vessels, boats can only accommodate a certain number of passengers for a safe voyage. Going beyond the maximum threshold could cause problems during the trip, like sinking or capsizing. Always follow the recommended capacity restrictions as stated on your boat’s manual.

Trust Your Common Sense

Above all else, your common sense will be your best guide during your boat ride. With driving rules on the water almost the same as those on land, trust your instincts when it comes to maneuvering your boat. Avoiding simple things like driving under the influence and having minors drive the boat will ensure safe travel ahead.

Hoist the Sails and Time to Set Sail

With these helpful safety tips in mind, having a smooth boat trip is right around the corner. Taking the proper safety courses, getting the right equipment, and following the proper protocols before sailing on your boat makes sure you can focus on the fun and excitement.