10 Safe Boating Tips for When You’re on the Water

Texas is home to more square miles of inland waterways than any other state, and it has nearly 570,000 registered boats.

With Memorial Day weekend coming up that makes the holiday an especially anxious time for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

Last year game wardens in the Lone Star state issued 1,353 citations and warnings during Memorial Day weekend, nearly half of which were related to boating safety, according to a press release.

RELATED: 10 Pre-Departure Steps for Safe Boating

The number one thing you can do to prevent accidents is to take a boater safety course. Nearly 71 percent of boaters involved in fatalities in 2015 had not taken a boater education course. 

On a power boat or jet ski the next best thing you can do to reduce accidents is to use an ignition kill switch. And always remember to wear a life jacket. Those are the first two steps in our on-the-water checklist for safe boating.

Here are 10 things to remember when on the water:

Ignition kill switch

The United States Coast Guard estimates that ignition safety switches or “kill switches” could reduce boating-related deaths by 89 percent and injuries by nearly 77 percent. 

Wear a life jacket

Though only 6.1 percent of adults typically wear a life jacket in an open motorboat, the US Coast Guard estimates that life jackets could save 85 percent of the people who drowned in 2015.

Keep life preserver handy

Always keep a throwable life preserver somewhere that you can access in a hurry. This can make the difference between life and death for someone who falls into the water without a life jacket. 

Drink responsibility

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself on the water, even having a cocktail, but when you are the skipper of a vessel it’s imperative that you keep your wits about you. Drink responsibly! And we all know what that means.

Know the nearest harbor

Always have a strategy if something happens. Know where the nearest port or safe harbor is located in case your engine fails.

Monitor VHF radio

Always keep your radio tuned to emergency channel 16.

Know the waterways

Understanding your local waterways is something that comes with experience, but you can always review maps, tide charts and weather reports to understand what to expect. 

Be weather aware

Even though you checked the weather beforehand, keeping an eye on incoming weather patterns is a big part of being a conscientious boater.

Monitor fuel

Always a good idea to keep an eye on the fuel gauge and make a note of what time you left the dock. For some docks that do not have functioning fuel gauges, noting the time of departure and for how long you ran the engine is imperative to knowing how much fuel you have in the tank.  

Keep a boat hook handy

A boat hook is a pole designed to retrieve objects out of the water. It can be used to fend off other vessels, or retrieve items out of the water. Having the boat hook in a place that can easily be accessed is a good thing to keep in mind.

Photo credit: US Coast Guard