A woman helping her son put on his life jacket while out on the boat

Basic Boat Safety Rules – General Seamanship Rules & Fire Prevention Checklist

A fun and exciting day on the lake with family and friends could turn into probable cause for a severe accident if proper boating safety protocols are not implemented. Just like riding in a car, buckling your seatbelt is comparable to putting on a life vest while on a boat. While it may be tempting to sit back, relax, wind in the hair, with a drink in hand, safety should never take a back seat. In 2019, there were more than 4,000 boating accidents reported, resulting in 600 deaths and 2,500 injuries. The most important statistic to know is that these accidents could be easily preventable if the proper safety measures are taken.

Let’s take some time to discuss basic boat safety, boat safety rules, general seamanship, and fire prevention tips to ensure that you have the best and safest possible experience on the water.

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10 Basic Boat Safety Rules

View of the steering wheel of a boat with a mounted box for a walkie-talkie and boat safety documents

You cannot always predict an emergency, so it is important to be prepared for any possible situation. On top of having a boat safety kit on board, safety is foremost in your mind when spending the day on the water with friends and family. Before you head out with friends and family, take note of a few important boat safety rules and tips.

  1. Never operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Doing so is a Federal offense, so make sure only qualified riders are driving the boat.
  2. Your boat and equipment should be kept in safe operating condition. Regularly inspect the hull, engine, fuel lines, safety equipment and all other boating components.
  3. Use extreme CAUTION while fueling your boat. Make sure to become familiar with the capacity of your boat’s fuel tank and fuel consumption for commonly used RPMs. Avoid fueling at night except under well-lit conditions. Gas spills are hard to see in the dark.
  4. Keep enough fuel on board for your planned cruising requirements as well as for changes in your plans due to adverse weather or other situations. We recommend the 1/3 rule: use 1/3 of your fuel to reach your destination, 1/3 to return, and keep 1/3 in reserves.
  5. Keep regulation lifesaving and fire extinguishing equipment on board, specifically in unrestricted and in safe operating conditions. All passengers should become familiar with the operation and location of all equipment.
  6. Always keep an eye on the weather to properly plan ahead. Strong winds and electrical storms should be personally monitored.
  7. Always have another passenger on board aware of basic operating procedures. At least one other passenger aboard should be indoctrinated on the basic operating procedures for handling your boat, in the event you unexpectedly become unable to do so.
  8. Make sure all passengers sit in designated seating areas and remain seating during motion. Never allow passengers to ride on areas of your boat that are not designated as seating areas, and all passengers should remain seated while the boat is in motion.
  9. Never overload or improperly load to unbalance your boat. Doing so can cause problems with the balance of your boat out on the water and could lead to an easily preventable accident.
  10. Never attempt to climb on the boat from the water or jump from the boat to the water while the engine is running. While the engine is running, whether the boat is in motion or not, it is very dangerous to go from the boat to the water (and vice versa). Always wait until the boat is at anchor with the engine off to get in the water.

Following these basic boat safety rules will not only ensure a smooth ride for yourself, but also your family and friends who join on the day’s activities.


Boating Fire Prevention Checklist

IMPORTANT: All persons who are aboard must always know the location and proper operation of the fire extinguishers in case of an emergency. It is the captain’s responsibility to instruct passengers about it before, during, and after travel.

  • Check the bilge for fuel smell and possible leaks – the bilge is the lowest point in your boat, so if you do have a fuel leak, fuel will collect there.
  • Check fuel lines for cracks and possible leaks – over time, fuel lines or hoses will decay and may begin to leak fuel vapors, which may produce a faint odor of gasoline.
  • Check cleaning products for flammability – cleaning products that are flammable are toxic to animals, marine life, and sometimes humans. It is recommended to use non-chemical based boat cleaning products such as boat-wash wax.
  • Ventilate when cleaning, painting, or filling fuel – this will reduce the likelihood of gasoline fumes going to unwanted locations in or on the boat.
  • Disconnect electrical systems from power sources when performing any type of maintenance – this will reduce the likelihood of any technical errors from occurring.
  • Use extra caution when using exposed flame around urethane foam or resins.
  • Ensure ventilation systems are not obstructed so you have pair on the center console for battery fumes and another one on the back of pilot seat for gasoline tank vapors.
  • Replace the circuit breaker fuse with one of the same amperages.
  • A qualified marine electrician to service the electrical system – hiring someone to perform routine maintenance will ensure that your boat is in prime condition before use.


The General Rules of Seamanship

A man out on the bow of his boat dropping anchor following the general rules of seamanship

The general rules of seamanship are similar to the rules of the road: follow them and you will have a safe, and enjoyable, experience out on the water. Below are some of the key general rules and precautions to follow when you are navigating through different bodies of water.

  1. Always cross waves at right angles.
  2. When caught in heavy water, head your boat either directly into the waves or at a slight angle by reducing your speed but maintaining enough power to maneuver your boat safely.
  3. Keep your speed under control out of respect to the rights of boats engaged in fishing, swimming, water skiing, or diving. Make sure to give them a “wide berth”.
  4. When meeting a boat head–on, keep to the right whenever possible.
  5. When two boats cross, the boat to the right or starboard has the right of way. So, you must reduce speed ant let it pass first.
  6. When overtaking or passing, the boat being passed has the right of way and you should be aware of other boat changing course at last minute.
  7. If a bigger boat at high speed passes you nearby, reduce speed immediately to reduce wave jumping left behind.
  8. At night if a boat is coming head on, navigation lights should be aligned the same “green-green” on both boats’ sides.
  9. When entering a port at night, check entrance buoys colors “red-green” and keep your boat navigation lights aligned the same color with buoys lights side by side.


Sardine Marine is a Premium Supplier of Marine-Grade 316 Stainless Steel Boat Parts

Sardine Marine is your go-to expert for boat safety. When it comes to understanding how to navigate your boat safely and securely across any body of water, Sardine Marine’s team of marine experts are here to help before your next adventure. Sardine Marine is a premium supplier of marine-grade, corrosion-resistant, 316 stainless steel boat parts and supplies that ensure your boat has the tools it needs to run properly. The addition of molybdenum is a useful advantage for objects that require resistance to extreme environmental conditions such as saltwater, de-icing salts, brine solutions, or other chemical forms of chemical exposure. Shop for the best stainless steel boat anchors, cleats, bollards, lights, hooks, swivels, and more online at Sardine Marine.

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