It all starts with the life jackets. The USCG estimates that 80% of boating fatalities could be eliminated if boaters simply wore PFDs. That is tip #1 and we have 14 others.
1. Wear a USCG-approved flotation device.
2. Children 12 years old and younger must always wear a PFD in a boat while the boat is underway. (Drifting is considered underway.)
3. There must be a wearable life jacket on the boat for every person on board.
4. There must be a Type IV throwable device (cushion or ring buoy) on board if the boat is 16 feet or larger.
5. Never – repeat, NEVER – have your engine running when people are in the water near your outboard-powered or sterndrive-powered boat. Wait for skiers and swimmers to be a safe distance away before starting the engine and engaging your prop(s).
6. Make sure the boat’s navigation lights work — before it gets dark. It's a good idea to carry extra fuses and bulbs, and to have a battery-powered hand-held red and green light in addition to flashlight to act as an emergency stern light. Navigational lights on a boat that don’t work don’t count.
7. Personal watercraft (jet skis) cannot be operated between sunset and sunrise.
8. EVERYONE, no matter what their age, on board a personal watercraft must wear a life jacket.
9. Beware of other boaters around you. Many don’t have a clue as to what they are doing, are not paying attention, or are going too fast – or all of the above. At speed, it only takes a moment of inattention to cause an accident. When seeing a cigarette-type boat, steer behind it, for the reasons mentioned above.
10. Don’t drive fast at night. Breakwaters, pilings, rowboats, barges, large mooring balls, and even islands can be invisible. If hit at high speed, there will usually be a fatal accident. Remember, there are no seat belts on boats.
11. Stay within the capacity limits for your boat as stated on the manufacturer’s USCG plate. If you even think your boat might be overloaded, it probably is.
12. If boating home from a party after drinking alcohol, have a designated driver. Marine police have lost patience with drunks because BUI is the cause of far too many accidents.
13. Check the weather report before you leave the dock and act accordingly given the size of your boat, the body of water you’ll be on, and your own boat-handling skills.
14. When fueling, make sure any spills in the boat are properly cleaned up. Don’t start an inboard or sterndrive engine until after the engine hatch has been opened, and you have sniffed for signs of leaking gas. Then start the blower and run in for 3 minutes before starting the engine. This is particularly important when on older boats.
15. In all boats, remember you are responsible for the well-being of everyone aboard. Do not start or stop the boat abruptly – someone could easily fall out or fall forward. Make gentle turns not sharp, fast ones when G forces could sling someone out of the boat or into a bulkhead.
*For Coast rules and regulations, go to