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5 Safe Boating Tips You Must Know!

by Lynn Fountain, FSO-PE Coast Guard Auxiliary
Herring Bay Flotilla 23-07

These five Safe Boating Tips just might help save your life as well as the lives of your family and friends. Every passenger in your boat should know basic safety procedures before boarding.



All Boat Owners and Captains must attend and pass the Maryland State Authorized Boating Safety Course administered through the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources: "Any person born on or after July 1, 1972, must have in their possession a Certificate of Boating Safety Education to operate a numbered or documented vessel (including personal watercraft) legally on Maryland's public waters."  It is recommended that first mates and regular crew also complete a boating safety course so they know how to safely help out and be able to take over if the Captain becomes incapacitated. 

The next Maryland State Boating Safety Course is being held at Tri-State Marine on consecutive Saturdays: October 1 & October 8, 2016. Click HERE for more information and registration. 


A VHF Marine Radio is the single most important radio system you need to have on your boat. There are specific regulations in place for monitoring and listening to your radio. Click HERE for the for the US Coast Guard Radio Watchkeeping Regulations.

 Also make sure that you and your crew are familiar with the procedures for sending a MAYDAY CALL. Click HERE for the US Coast Guard Homeland Security Regulations for a making a distress call. You can also get a free sticker explaining these Emergency Radio Call Procedures to place next to your boat radio.



Outboard Motors  If you have a removable tank, take it out of the boat to fill with fuel. Do not overfill making sure to leave room for heat induced expansion. If your boat has a built-in tank, first get all of your passengers off the boat until fueling is complete. While putting fuel into the tank, put your hand near the vent to feel for airflow (sometimes this vent is covered by a device to prevent overflow or as a fuel level indicator.)

Inboard Motors  First get your passengers off of the boat and shut all cabin windows and doors. At the end of fueling, run the blower for at least 4 minutes to get rid of any fumes that might be lingering. When you go back into the cabin to open the windows, you should not smell any raw fuel. 

After fueling Outboard & Inboard Motors:If you smell ANY raw fuel, you must find out why BEFORE you start the engine. Your life, and those of your impatient family and friends, depend on your nose!  Focus, be patient and thorough with this process. Only when you are satisfied that you cannot smell fuel, can you let your crew re-board the boat and safely start her up.

 LIFE JACKETS - Must Wear 

Every US Coast Guard Officer preparing to board a vessel puts on their Life Jacket (Personal Flotation Device) at the dock BEFORE boarding the boat.Their jacket is not removed until AFTER they step back onto the dock at journey's end. Why? As the Department of Natural Resources saying goes, "Life Jackets: They Float, You Don't" especially if you go overboard, become unconscious, get hurt, or fall ill. Make sure everyone on your boat stays alive - Wear Your Jacket Dock-to-Dock!


Always plan and prepare for emergencies. Before you take off from the dock, double check all communications, electronics, mechanical operations, equipment, tools, etc. to make sure everything is at maximum level of proficiency. Murphy's Law applies just as much on the water as in the rest of life, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." Be prepared for unexpected problems. Click HERE to read an extremely helpful brochure showing the Federal Requirements for boating equipment and additional safety tips. 

Remember you're carrying precious cargo and are responsible for their well being.  Be Prepared - take the time to learn how to stay safe on the water!

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