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National Safe Boating Week Kicks Off – May 18-24
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National Safe Boating Week Kicks Off – May 18-24

National Safe Boating

National Safe Boating Week | May 18-24, 2019:

The Safe Boating Campaign kicks off the weekend before Memorial Day with National Safe Boating Week and continues throughout the year with various events and activities.  Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas will host events to highlight the importance of boating safety throughout the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend.

The following list will provide some good guidelines to help ensure you stay safe on the water this boating season. It is important to remember that this is not all-inclusive, every boat, location, and environment provides unique challenges, it is the Captain’s responsibility to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew!


  • Check trailer brakes, lights and license.
  • Ensure tires are properly inflated.
  • Grease wheel bearings.
  • Ensure safety chains/cables are installed and in good condition.
  • Inspect winch/cable for proper operation.

Life Jackets

  • Have at least one Coast Guard-approved life jacket per passenger and a minimum of two on board.
  • An additional throwable device is required if the vessel is more than 16 feet long.
  • Explain the location and use of all life jackets to passengers and crew that may be new to the vessel.

Sound Producing Devices

  • Have a horn capable of producing a four-second blast audible for at least 1/2 mile on board.
  • If you use portable air horn, have a spare can of air or an alternate device.
  • Attach a whistle to each life jacket.

Lights and Shapes

  • Have all navigation lights as required for your boat.
  • Make sure all instrument lights are working.
  • If you intend to engage in a recreational boating activity that requires a day-shape, have the required shapes.
  • Have aboard a flashlight and spare batteries.

Distress Signals

  • Make flares, day signals, etc., are accessible
  • Ensure they are not expired and stored in a dry location.
  • Inform the crew and passengers of their location and safety rules for proper usage.

Tools and Spares

  • Carry a basic toolbox with tools appropriate for your boat.
  • Carry a box of spares including fuel filters, light bulbs, head parts, through-hull plugs, etc.
  • Ensure you have a standard first-aid kit onboard

Fuel and Oil

  • Top off your fuel tanks.
  • If you can’t top them off, have enough fuel to provide a reasonable margin of safety for your return.
  • Check the engine oil and coolant levels.

Fire Extinguishers

  • Carry at least one fire extinguisher and ensure it is accessible. Make sure you have at least the number required by Coast Guard rules for a vessel your size.
  • Check to be sure mounts are secure and functional before departure.
  • Take the time to point out locations and operation to passengers and crew.


  • On any powered vessel or auxiliary powered sailboat, or vessels using LPG for cooking or heat, check that all interior spaces are well ventilated before departure.
  • If fuel smells are detected before ventilating, check after running the blowers for several minutes before starting.
  • If odor persists, shut down the engine and look for the source of the leak.
  • For any enclosed or semi-enclosed area, ensure you have at least one properly installed and working carbon monoxide detector


  • Check to be sure bilges are reasonably dry and that pumps are not running excessively.
  • Clean up any spilled oil or waste in bilges to prevent overboard discharge.
  • If your vessel is equipped with live wells, test them as soon as practical. It is not uncommon for hoses to split during long cold winter months. If this has happened, once you energize the pump, you will fill your bilges with water!

Weather Forecast

  • Always check the weather forecast before boating.
  • Have a radio on board to receive weather updates.

Battery Care

  • If you have a dual charging system, make sure the selector switch in the proper position.
  • Make sure the power is on to the entire vessel.
  • Have aboard spare batteries for accessories such as your handheld radio, flashlight, portable navigational aid, etc.
  • If the batteries are rechargeable, make sure they’re charged.

Docking and Anchoring Tips

  • Have at least one anchor set up and secured to your anchor line.
  • Carry some extra dock lines in case you encounter unusual conditions dockside.
  • Visually inspect the lines you use for chafe or wear.
  • Carry at least two fenders on-board for docking or towing if required.

Develop a float plan

  • A float plan can be filed with a family member or marina and may include the following information. At a minimum, it should include departure location/time, approximate destination and expected return time/location.
  • Name address and phone number of Captain/owner/operator
  • Name and phone number of all passengers.
  • Boat type and registration information.
  • Trip itinerary/plan
  • Types of communication and signal equipment onboard, such as VHF-FM radio, frequency monitoring info, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

Find out more at Safe Boating

Remember, any time you’re boating, set an example for others and always wear a life jacket and boat responsibly.

Photo courtesy of Safe Boating Campaign