Powerboats, sailboats, and personal watercraft (PWCs) offer many opportunities for their operators to enjoy the water. Along with the enjoyment come responsibilities—both to the passengers and to others who share the public waterways.
Sharing the fun of your pleasure craft with your friends and family is all part of the boating experience. As the operator of a boat, you are legally responsible for ensuring that your passengers understand basic safety practices and laws.
- Use a pre-departure checklist to make sure you’ve taken the necessary safety precautions.
- Before departing, have a safety discussion with everyone on board. Some of the things you should point out are:
- Locations of safety equipment—lifejackets and PFDs, manual propelling device, anchor, fire extinguisher(s), visual signals, first-aid kit, and bailers/water pump
- The need for all passengers to wear a lifejacket, especially during times of high boat traffic, severe weather, or any other dangerous boating conditions
- How to put on a lifejacket or PFD
- Laws about reckless operation, required equipment, and waste disposal
- Safety procedures for responding to a fire or someone falling overboard, including how to use buoyant heaving lines
- How to signal for help or use the VHF radio to make a MAYDAY call
- How to anchor the vessel and handle lines (ropes)
- Conduct emergency drills with your passengers so that everyone knows what to do in case of a boating emergency.