Safe Boating with Kids

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Remember these tips as you head out on the water a few more times before school is back in session:

  • Expect the unexpected. Pack a change of clothes, have extra snacks and water, and don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats.
  • Clear expectations. Establish rules upfront and always practice safe boating habits onboard.
  • Be vigilant. Keep eyes on children at all times. Have a responsible adult – besides the boat operator – assigned to watch the children.
  • Make a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information, boat type and registration, and communication equipment on board before you leave the dock.
  • Wear a life jacket. Make sure you and your children wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket – every time you are near the dock and on a boat. An adult life jacket does not work for children. Learn about choosing the right life jacket.
  • Use an engine cut-off switch – it’s the law.An engine cut-off switch is a proven safety device to stop a powerboat engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
  • Check equipment. Schedule a free vessel safety check with local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons to make sure all essential equipment is present, working and in good condition.
  • Watch the weather.Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during the excursion.
  • Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2021 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
  • Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Be familiar with the area, local boating speed zones, and always travel at a safe speed.
  • Never boat under the influence.A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.
  • Be aware of carbon monoxide. Know when and where carbon monoxide may accumulate around your boat. Learn more.
  • Keep in touch.Have more than one communication device that works when wet. VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones, and cell phones can all be important devices in an emergency.

The Safe Boating Campaign is produced under a grant from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund and administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. The campaign offers a variety of free and paid resources to support local boating safety education efforts. Learn more at