Your Boating Safety Guide

Your Boating Safety Guide

October 4, 2018

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Boating is all about fun! There’s nothing better than a sunny day out on the water. That being said, safety is always the priority. And in a dynamic environment like the ocean, it’s best to be prepared for anything, because conditions can rapidly change.

Here at Formula Boats, we equip our customers with only the highest-quality boats because we know your safety, and the safety of your family, depend on it. In addition to having the right boating safety equipment, it’s a good idea to know how to prepare for any boating trip safely.

We made this basic recreational boating safety guide with tips to help you have a fun and safe time on any water adventure.

Before Your Trip

If you’re about to head out for a daytime excursion or a weekend getaway on your boat, proper preparation is crucial to ensuring safety. When you know what to expect and how to deal with the unexpected, little will catch you off-guard and you’ll have a great trip.

So, what can you do to get ready before you step foot on your boat? Here are some boating safety precautions that any skipper should consider before getting underway:


Besides unexpected rain showers that can dampen your fun, the weather can turn potentially dangerous if you aren’t equipped to handle it.

Always check the local weather using your favorite app or weather stations. There are often weather and visibility reports that describe the conditions for seafarers in your area, so look up which channels you can tune into for the most relevant information.

Weather can turn sour surprisingly fast! Don’t get caught in a dangerous situation because you didn’t check the weather report. Things can change in a heartbeat if there’s a weather system moving in.

Besides checking the local weather, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of clouds and other ways you can tell if a weather system is approaching. Darkening clouds, dropping temperatures, and changing winds are indicators that conditions are about to turn. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t be afraid to change your plans and head back to safe waters if you need to. Your passengers will thank you later.

Never overstep your bounds and know the capabilities of your boat. The smaller and less seaworthy your vessel, the more careful you should be when venturing out into open water. Be prepared and know your limits. Don’t try to push it.


There’s a lot to remember when preparing to go on any boating trip. Besides sunscreen, water toys, cold drinks, and the dog, it’s easy to forget to do a safety check and bring the right equipment. Create a safety checklist that you can use to ensure you don’t forget anything.

We like to recommend having a two-part list, with the first section for safety checks and essentials and the second for everything else, like food, drinks, and toys.

A few things to include on your boat safety checklist include:

  • Lifejackets: Bring one for every person. Even one for the dog and, yes, even if you know how to swim. It’s also a good idea to stock the boat with some extra lifejackets in case you end up with an additional guest or two. Make sure that wherever you stow the life preservers aboard your vessel, they’re easy to access. You don’t want to be digging for them in an emergency. If your vessel is over 16 feet long, you’ll also need a life ring or other throwable flotation device.
  • Flares and signaling equipment: In case you get stranded, you need to be able to let other boaters and rescue teams know where you are. The U.S. Coast Guard requires that all boats carry flares as well as other distress signal equipment.
  • A VHF radio: A VHF radio is not only a great way to call for help, but it’s also an excellent way to monitor other boaters’ activities. Often, there will be a working channel for commercial vessels in your area if you’re in a harbor, and listening to them communicate can help you stay out of the way and make maneuvering easier for everyone. Channel 16 is the designated frequency for asking for assistance from the authorities in most harbors.
  • A knife or cutting tool: You should always keep a cutting tool handy for the quick release of a line, if necessary. In case someone gets a hand or foot caught, or you need to disconnect quickly.
  • Fire extinguishers: Another Coast Guard requirement, because a fire on a boat is the last thing you want. Both you and your passengers should be aware of the fire extinguisher locations as well as how to operate them.
  • An airhorn: Having a handheld horn lets you signal to other boaters in close quarters if you need to alert them of your presence. If your boat dies and you have no lights in the dark, you must have other ways of letting other vessels know you’re there.
  • An anchor: Sometimes the best thing to do is stay where you are and call for help. Ensure that you have a functioning anchor aboard and enough line to anchor safely if your boat’s engine dies.
  • Extra line for towing: If you need assistance from another vessel, it’s a good idea to have a towing line in case they don’t have any.
  • A GPS and navigational charts: Bring a GPS to track your location, especially if you’re going out into the ocean. If a weather system moves in and you can no longer see land, it can be dangerous if you head in the wrong direction. Also, bring a compass and navigational charts that cover the area in which you’ll be boating. They’re not just an essential backup if your GPS fails — they also have useful information about things to avoid, like shallow or restricted waters.


Always let someone know what your plan is for your trip, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or even someone at the marina. If you go missing, they’ll be able to direct the rescue party in the right direction. Here’s what to include in your float plan:

  • – Names and addresses of you and your passengers
  • – Everyone’s phone numbers
  • – Boat description and registration information
  • – Your itinerary
  • – Your onboard distress equipment

Let the person know when you’ll be back and be sure to call them when the trip is over.


Whether you’re a new boater or an experienced seafarer, taking a boating course is never a bad idea. You’ll gain valuable information on the safest boat handling practices as well as what to do in an emergency.

There’s a lot to remember when driving a boat and a lot of stuff you have to learn the hard way if you do it on your own. Avoid some of the common errors of new boaters and enroll in a boating class.


If you want to double-check that you’ve got all the right equipment on board, you may opt to have a Coast Guard official check your vessel for safety and compliance with state and federal regulations. The check is free, and they’ll let you know if you’re missing anything, as well as give suggestions about extra gear that may come in handy. The Coast Guard also has an online safety checklist that helps to review before you head out in case you can’t schedule one in person.


If you or any of your young ones don’t know how to swim, take a course and learn before you step foot on a boat. The chances of you going over may be low, but you should know all the same.

Before You Leave the Dock

You’re almost ready to depart! But before leaving the dock, make sure you follow these steps:

  • Use the blower: If you have a boat that runs on gasoline, be sure to run your blower for at least four minutes before starting the engine — this ventilates the engine compartment and gets rid of fumes that could potentially ignite.
  • Check your bilges: Make sure there isn’t any water leaking into your bilge and don’t forget to replace the drain plug if you trailer your boat!
  • Before you start your engine: Check your engines oil and fuel levels and test any alarms on your display panel.
  • After you start your engine, check that your engine’s cooling system is working and that water is circulating and check your oil pressure
  • Disconnect shore power: Don’t forget to unplug before you start to leave the dock!
  • Set a home point on your GPS: In case visibility turns poor, it’s a good idea to set a waypoint either for your dock or the mouth of the harbor.
  • Bring your dock lines: It’s always a good idea to have extra line aboard a boat, even if you don’t plan on using it. Besides towing purposes, it may come in handy for many unforeseen uses.

While You’re Out on the Water

It can be easy to get swept away by the waves and the scenery, but your focus on safety doesn’t go away when you’re out on the water. While you’re on the water, remember to:


One of the most common reasons why people drown at sea is that they don’t wear their lifejackets. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, almost 85 percent of drowning victims in 2017 were not wearing a flotation device. Besides kids and others who should be wearing a lifejacket at all times, you shouldn’t hesitate to put on your own — even if you’re an excellent swimmer. If conditions are getting rough, put it on.


If you’re the skipper for the day, choose one of your passengers to be your assistant. Having someone else who knows how to operate the boat is convenient if you want to leave the helm. Also, if you have more than one person aboard who’s capable of driving, they’ll be able to get you back to the dock safely if you get injured and can’t drive.

Have your guests help you with keeping a lookout. No matter how good a captain you are, we all miss stuff in the water from time to time. Having a backup set of eyes is a great way to improve safety on the water, especially if you’re going fast.


Use the “thirds rule.” This means you should use about one-third of your fuel to get out and one-third to get back. The final third is a reserve in case you run longer than expected.


Many recreational boating accidents are the result of alcohol — including up to 19 percent of fatal boating accidents in 2017.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement when everyone’s having drinks, but it’s a good idea for you and your guests to save the alcohol consumption for shore if you can. Not only is it dangerous for the skipper to be tipsy, but having drunk guests leads to accidents all too often. With everything moving around on the water, someone is bound to slip or cause an accident.

Have fun, but know your limits, and play it safe.


Operate at a safe speed and always give yourself more room than you need when maneuvering around other boats. Going too fast near other boaters is dangerous for any swimmers in the water and could cause accidents for others. It’s best to keep your distance.

Look out for large commercial boats that may be towing. They often can’t slow down when under tow and it can be hard to see a tow line sometimes until you’re very close. Also, the larger a ship is, the less it appears to be moving, even if they’re running at 20 knots. Always take the stern of container ships if you are even remotely doubtful about a close encounter. Be observant and never cut too close to the stern of any vessel.


Be mindful of navigational aids like buoys and channel markers. They’re there to help you navigate and avoid hidden underwater features or restricted areas. Use them and familiarize yourself with the types of visual aids and what they mean.


As you may have noticed, the common theme among a lot of these tips is simply to use common sense. Remember: a good captain always keeps his or her cool. Relax and use the resources available to you.

Formula Boats for Performance and Safety

As a family-owned company based in Decatur, Indiana, we know the importance of protecting you and yours. We give our customers only top-of-the-line vessels that are world-renowned for their unparalleled quality, performance, and safety. We don’t compromise — and neither do our customers.

Owned and operated by the Porter family since 1976, we take personal pride in every boat we sell and we treat all of our customers like family. Using only the best materials and beautiful craftsmanship, we create a premium experience that means more priceless memories on the water. When it comes to protecting you and your family, you don’t want a boat that’s anything less than the best. That’s exactly what we make.

With 60 years of innovation and continual design improvement, we’ve become the premier powerboat company. If you’ve been told that you can’t have your dream boat because no boat has it all, take a look at our models and find your perfect boat today. We invite you to join our family and start enjoying unforgettable boating adventures.

Contact us with any other questions or for more information.

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