It’s never too soon to begin thinking about boating safety. But beyond life jackets, what you should prepare or bring? Check out our top tips for boating safety that will help make your next on-the-water adventure fun and safe.

Are you a first-time renter with GetMyBoat? Check out these resources for more information on what to expect.

Develop a Float Plan

You never know what might happen when you’re out on the water. Put together a float plan and make sure to leave it with someone at the marina, or tell a trusted friend or family member. The plan should include:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • The names of all passengers (with phone numbers)
  • Boat type, boat name, hull ID, and other registration information
  • Trip itinerary
  • Return ETA
  • Types of communication and signal equipment onboard the watercraft

If you’re an avid social media user, it might also be helpful to post where you’re planning to go. The U.S. Coast Guard even has a handy fillable PDF you can use to share with your designated contact. You should prepare a float plan anytime you plan to go out on the water – especially if you plan to go on a solo excursion.

Leave Alcohol Behind

At GetMyBoat, we believe alcohol consumption onboard is dangerous and strongly recommend against it. Boating and drinking are often depicted together, but this is unsafe for everyone on board – not just the captain. Drinking can impair judgment, hinder reflexes, and lead people to make unwise and unsafe decisions that can result in serious injury or death. (We don’t mean to scare you – but we believe that safety comes first!) Boating safety depends not just on the weather conditions, but also on you.

Learn to Swim

Many people who go boating don’t know how to swim. Even if you’re someone who enjoys swimming or dog-paddling around a pool, it’s smart to learn how to swim and work on stroke improvement. In an emergency, you’ll want to know how to conserve energy, avoid undertows, and work with currents rather than against them. Consider an open water workshop for more advanced swimmers or those who feel comfortable swimming in pools. The American Red Cross, local gyms and community centers, and even triathlon training groups are great resources if you’re looking to shore up your swimming skills. You can even find infant and toddler swim classes to get little ones acclimated sooner rather than later. And on that note…

Practice Safety Drills

Particularly with larger groups, it’s important that you have an action plan in the event of a disaster on the water. Run through drills for the most common issues or emergencies you might encounter, and make sure everyone knows what’s going on. It might not be fun or exciting to prepare for safety, but it’s essential and important. We’d also recommend taking a Boat Ed course. (They’re offered in many states, as well as in Canada.)

Enroll in a Boating Course

It is best to take a course for boating before you embark on your first journey. This is especially important if you are planning to charter your own boat to traverse the waters nearby. You will learn about the basic rules, do’s and don’ts, and how to control the boat so as not to disrupt other people who are in the area. Remember that when you are boating, you are not alone in the water. Research, prepare and be aware of your surroundings always.

Research about Boating Laws and Regulations

When you plan to go boating or fishing across different places, remember to take some time to do your research about regulations of certain States, countries, and local areas. Each one has its own restrictions, so learning about them before any trip will save you a whole lot of trouble in the long run. The last thing you want is to get entangled with the law while having your vacation. Know about signs, no-go zones, how to properly conduct yourself while on a boat charter, especially if it is not in your local territory.

Know about Distress and Sound Signals

Communication is always the key. Whether you want to signal another boat to move to avoid a collision, or if you're sending out an SOS for distress, knowing the proper way to send out these signals can save your life easily. Signals are the key to communicating with other boats and the best way to navigate through waters that are busy with boat traffic. If you know them, you are one step closer to a safe and enjoyable trip, no matter where you might go. Check out our guide on visual distress signals.

Prepare for Weather Changes

Although there are weather predictions everywhere, the daily report isn't foolproof. There are times when the weather can suddenly change for the worse while you are boating in the middle of a body of water. If this happens, you’ve got to have a backup plan on what to do. Whether it’s hot or cold, make sure that you have enough supplies on your boat so that you are not in any way unprepared. After all, preparation is the best way to avert disaster. When in doubt, don't go out.

Equip the Boat with Life Jackets

One of the most important safety protocols is to have enough life jackets and even lifeboats on board for all passengers in case there is an emergency. This is true for all boats, big or small. While others may complain that they are able to swim, water conditions are not always ideal. There may be strong currents, or you may get tired of swimming. With a life jacket on, you have the assurance that you will float to safety. There is no such thing as being too prepared. If you're boating with children - check out our guide to lifejackets for kids for more tips on selecting the right devices.

Never Neglect Boat Maintenance

Like how you give regular maintenance to a car, it is also imperative to do the same to boats. Both are essential for transportation, and without regular maintenance, you might end up stuck in the middle of nowhere. This is also part of the safety regulations for almost all States when it comes to boating. You do not let your machine overwork without giving it time to rest, because this can only lead to disastrous results along the way. Have a regular schedule for your boat maintenance to avoid hassles in the future. Most accidents are caused by defective machinery so don’t wait for small glitches to become bigger problems later.

Check out our guide to outboard motor maintenance, onboard water tank maintenance, and trailer wiring maintenance to get started.

Bring a Boating Companion

Never go boating alone. Having another set of hands and eyes while you are boating will ensure that you double-check everything. If you happen to miss a signal or sign along the way, then your lookout can inform you immediately. In case anything happens, you will have someone who can step up and lead so that your trip does not take a turn for the worst. A companion will not only be more fun but having someone with you can be essential support in a time of uncertainty on the water. Consider taking boating safety courses with your friends who want to enjoy the water with you.

Drive Defensively

If there is a time to be careful, it should be when you are in unfamiliar territories. Water conditions can be different for every place, and this should pose some caution for those who are beginners and experts alike. There may be other boats in the area traveling in the same path, so maneuvering yours on the defensive side will be the best strategy. Don’t be in a rush, look for signs and other signals that may be cause for alarm for risk. Remember that safety should always be a priority whenever you are boating in a new area.

These tips are only some of the most important things to note down when renting or chartering a boat. Whether you are the one operating it or not, always keep in mind precautions to avoid any trouble while you are on the water. There are so many things to learn about boating. It is one of the most exciting activities and is perfect for fun adventures with friends and family. Prepare yourself and take safety seriously so you can enjoy maximum fun while preventing accidents and tragedies.