About the Study Guide

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Sharing the Fun of Your Vessel

Powerboats, sailboats, and personal watercraft (PWCs) offer many opportunities for their operators to enjoy the waters. Along with the enjoyment comes responsibilities—both to the passengers and to others who share the public waterways.

Sharing the fun of your vessel with your friends and family is all part of the boating experience. When you are operating a vessel, you have a responsibility to your passengers. You also are responsible when you let someone else drive your vessel. As the owner, you could be held liable for any damage caused by it, no matter who is driving at the time.

Responsibility to Your Passengers

As the operator of a vessel, you are 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 emergency equipment—life jackets (PFDs), fire extinguisher(s), visual distress signals, first-aid kit, and bilge pump
    • The need for all passengers to wear a PFD, especially during times of high vessel traffic, severe weather, or any other dangerous boating conditions
    • Laws about reckless operation, required equipment, and waste disposal
    • Safety procedures for responding to a fire or someone falling overboard
    • 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.
Pre-Departure Checklist

Another way you can assure a good time while operating your vessel is to perform a pre-departure check.

  • Check the weather forecast for the area and timeframe during which you will be boating.
  • Make sure the steering and throttle controls are operating properly.
  • Check that all lights are working properly.
  • Check for any fuel leaks from the tank, fuel lines, and carburetor.
  • Check the engine compartment for oil leaks.
  • Check hose connections for leaks or cracks, and make sure hose clamps are tight.
  • Drain all water from the engine compartment, and be sure the bilge plug is replaced and secure.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel or know where you can refuel.
  • Check to be sure you have a fully charged engine battery and fire extinguishers.
  • If so equipped, make sure the ignition safety switch and wrist lanyard are in good order.
  • Make sure that you have the required number of personal flotation devices and that they are in good condition.
  • Leave a float plan with a reliable friend or relative.
Responsibility to Others Using the Waterways

As a vessel operator, you are just one of many who are enjoying the privilege of using the public waterways. It is your responsibility to stay aware of others in or on the water and to respect their use of the waterways. Remember that being a responsible operator includes controlling the noise of your boat or PWC.