Boating Safety Tips For Families

Keep your family safe on the water this summer with our expert boating safety tips! Read our latest article for must-know advice.

by Veteran Car Donations

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Getting your family out on the water is an ideal way to cool down and make memories this summer. However, understanding safe boating practices is essential to ensuring you enjoy a fun-filled day on the lake, ocean or another waterway. Before boarding the vessel, familiarize yourself and your family with the following boating safety tips. 

Take Extra Precautions With Kids

Boating with kids means taking additional safety measures to keep your family safe in and around the water. 

  • Life jacket laws vary by state, but kids should always wear their lifejackets, whether they’re on the boat, swimming or on the dock. Choose a lifejacket that is U.S. Coast Guard-approved and the correct size for your child’s weight. 
  • Teach your children how to swim and other water survival skills, such as treading water, floating and exiting the water. 
  • Establish your family’s swimming and boating rules and remain consistent. 
  • Learn water rescue skills, including CPR, to help during emergencies until the professionals arrive. 
hands of person doing cpr on training dummy
Photo by Raven Domingo on

Know How and Who to Call 

Before you step onto the boat, be sure you have a charged cell phone and a VHF radio aboard. Save the contact information for Towboat US and Sea Tow in case you face mechanical issues and need a tow. 

You may not have cell service when you head farther from shore, and calling 911 may not be an option. The VHF radio could be your only form of contact with emergency service providers. Learn how to use the radio as well as its distress function.  

Plan for the Unexpected

Boating emergencies can be caused by mechanical malfunctions, severe weather, operator inexperience and various other factors. When emergencies occur, adults may patiently wait for help to arrive. Kids are not as patient and do not have the body mass to endure long periods without food or water.

Pack for your day trip as though you’ll be staying overnight. Bring clothing layers for cooler temperatures and more food and water than you think you’ll need. Pack prescriptions and any other essentials your family requires. 

Maintain the Vessel

Proper boat maintenance is one of the best ways to keep your family safe and ensure you have a fun-filled day without annoying mechanical interruptions. Inspect the engine, fuel lines and propeller for potential issues before your trip. 

Review your state’s safety equipment requirements before heading onto the water. Ensure all safety equipment is on board and working. Always keep your first-aid kit stocked and replace any expired items.

Take a Boating Safety Course

A boating safety course is the best way to learn about safe boating practices. In many states, kids over 12 can operate a boat without an adult if they have earned their boating safety certificate. Research boating safety courses offered by the Department of National Resources (DNR) in your state, and consider taking one with your kid(s) before the summer boating season starts. 

Check the Forecast

Unfortunately, the weather on the water can change in an instant. It’s still imperative to check the forecast before you head out. Don’t go boating if storms are expected, and immediately head back to shore if a storm appears imminent. 

Limit Alcohol Consumption 

Alcohol consumption is one of the top contributors to fatal boating accidents. Always have an alcohol-free skipper and an alcohol-free adult to watch the children. 

Understanding boating safety can be the difference between a fun day on the water and one that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons. Check out the accompanying resource for more information about boating safety.  

Author Bio: Veteran Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations to better the lives of veterans. The organization partners with a number of well-known veteran charities to help provide essential medical care, mental health services and more.

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