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Safety Tips for Other Water Activities


Because it is almost impossible for boat operators to spot a swimmer, especially in waves, swimmers should:

  • Not swim outside of designated or safe areas.
  • Swim only in deep waters where they can be seen by boaters and with a boat alongside.

Inflatable toys can be easily punctured and lose air. Wind can push a toy out of a user’s reach. Users should be sure they don’t drift too far from shore. Inflatable toys are not a substitute for supervision—always watch children who use these toys.

Swimmers should know their ability and never exceed it. Never dive into unknown depths or swim alone.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

As a vessel operator, you should:

  • Be able to recognize a diver-down flag—a red flag with a white diagonal stripe floating in the divers’ area.
  • Stay the legal distance away from a diver-down flag.
  • Keep a lookout for bubbles breaking the surface of the water. The bubbles indicate that there are divers below who may have strayed from their marked diving area.

In order to ensure their own safety, divers should:

  • Always display the diver-down flag.
  • Select a boat that is suited for diving. A small boat with easy exit or entry is best, although it should be large enough to hold diving gear comfortably. Flat-bottomed boats should be considered for this reason.
  • Avoid overloading the boat with people or equipment and supplies.
  • Always anchor the boat securely.

Avoiding Propeller Strike Injuries

Most propeller strike accidents result from operator error. Victims include swimmers, scuba divers, fallen water-skiers, and boat operators or passengers. Most propeller accidents can be prevented by following basic safe boating practices.

  • Maintain a proper lookout. The primary cause of propeller strike accidents is operator inattention.
  • Make sure the engine is off so that the propeller is not rotating when passengers are boarding or leaving a boat.
  • Never start a boat with the engine in gear.
  • Slow down when approaching congested areas and anchorages. In congested areas, always be alert for swimmers and divers.
  • Learn to recognize warning buoys that mark swimming and hazardous areas.
  • Keep the boat away from marked swimming and diving areas. Become familiar with the red and white or blue and white diver-down flags signaling that divers are below the surface.
  • Make sure that passengers are seated properly before getting underway. Some operators of larger boats with several passengers have caused injuries by putting the engine in gear while people were still swimming or diving from the boat.
  • Never ride on a seat back, gunwale, transom, or bow.

Devices That Reduce Propeller Strikes

There are several new technologies designed to reduce propeller strikes. The effectiveness of the devices varies, depending on the boat and the operating environment. For more information, read the article “Propeller Injury Intervention” on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety website: