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Staying Safe at Sea: Avoid These Dangerous Boating Mistakes

Boat safety is essential when you're out on the water. Here are common mistakes made out at sea and how you can avoid them.

During the hot days of summer, or even on the cooler days of spring and fall, there’s nothing like being out on the water to have some fun, connect with nature, and recharge the batteries. However, it’s important to realize that there are others out there doing the same, and failing to follow the rules can cause injury, damage, and make the trip less enjoyable. That’s why Boatline put together the following list of common mistakes made on the water and what you, as a responsible boater, can do to make sure everyone has the best time possible.


Aside from accidents and injuries, nothing spoils a good day out on the water more than not being prepared for stormy conditions. Remember that the marine forecast is different from the land forecast, so be sure to check marine conditions before making any plans. There are a few apps that you can use for that, including Buoy Weather, NOAA Marine Weather Forecast, Predictwind, Storm Shield, or the United States Coast Guard. Most are free with in-app purchases available, but some do require a small charge.


Alcohol and boating are just as bad as drinking and getting behind the wheel of an automobile. If you’re drinking out on the water, you’re eventually going to have to return to shore. Unless you dock at home, that means you’re going to eventually have to drive the boat home. It’s always best to have a designated driver if there is going to be alcohol aboard your vessel. As the captain, you also have the responsibility to cut people off when they start to get out of control or are acting dangerously. 

On the flip side of the coin, when people are out on the water, they sometimes forget about hydration. Make sure to have plenty of water and/or soft drinks on board for everyone to stay properly hydrated throughout the duration of your excursion. 

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The Coast Guard requires boaters to have enough life jackets on board your vessel for every person aboard. While they do not require everyone to wear a life jacket while the boat is in use, they highly recommend it, and some states do require it, especially when operating a personal watercraft, water skiing or tubing, or for anyone that is not comfortable with swimming.


Nothing is more embarrassing for a captain than running aground, but it happens more frequently than people realize. If you can get your hands on depth charts for where you intend to explore, you can avoid problem areas that you might not see from the surface. Also, it’s a

good idea to have a spotter keeping an eye on your surroundings. While the captain is looking out toward the destination, the spotter should be checking behind for other boats coming up, off to both sides to make sure there are no hazards that could become problems (like other boats headed straight for you), and also up front to watch for submerged items that the captain can’t easily see. 


Filling up the gas tank on a boat can be an expensive endeavor, but be sure to have at least enough fuel to get through the day without becoming stranded out on the water. If you’re out for awhile, be sure to check the fuel gauge often, especially if the sun is starting to set and you’re quite a distance from the dock.


Forgetting to install the drain plug before heading out is a common mistake for those that trailer their boats. It’s not particularly dangerous, but it will slow the performance of your boat as the extra water you’ll take on will add a lot of weight. In most cases, it means going back to where you launched, taking the boat out of the water, waiting for the extra water to drain out, and then putting the plug in before relaunching. It’s a pretty time-consuming process, which can interfere with your plans for the day. 

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All boats come with weight limits. Be sure to know not only what the recommended occupancy for the boat is (that includes putting too many people on a personal watercraft), but also know your boat’s weight capacity. That includes the passengers and all of the gear you bring along. It’s unsafe and can be dangerous to operate an overloaded vessel. 

Your best boating experience is out there waiting for you. If you’re in the market for a new or used boat or personal watercraft, check out what has to offer. We have everything from personal watercraft and pontoon boats to power boats and yachts. When you’re ready to set off, we’re ready to welcome you aboard.

By Barrett Baker


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