Nothing beats boating as a way to relax, have fun, enjoy the outdoors and bring
friends and family together. That's why it's so tragic when a recreational boating
outing – hunting, angling, paddling or just cruising – ends with an accident. On
average, two boaters are killed every day on America's waterways – more than 700
per year. Thousands of others are injured. Waterways are second only to highways
as the scene of accidental deaths. Too often these accidents happen when otherwise
responsible, conscientious people make the serious mistake of assuming that their
experience or equipment is enough to keep them and their passengers safe. As a boat
owner and operator, YOU are responsible for your safety, the safety of your passengers,
and other boaters. Help keep Washington's waterways safe by following these
- Always wear a lifejacket when boating. Besides their lifesaving flotation,
life vests and float coats provide added insulation to protect against hypothermia, and
they only work if boaters wear them. Life vests featuring mesh upper bodies, specifically
designed for shouldering a gun, are available now.
- Limit the loads of people and equipment carried in boats. Overloaded boats
are less maneuverable and more likely to become swamped or capsized.
- Limit movement and keep weight low to avoid capsizing or falling overboard.
Take two trips if necessary to keep the weight in the boat low.
- In case of capsizing or swamping, you should stay with your boat. Even when
filled with water, the boat will provide some flotation and is easier to see by potential
- Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Assess the wind and
wave conditions to decide if you are prepared for potential cold-water conditions. Check
weather forecasts before leaving home and be aware of changing conditions. And take along
extra clothing for children - they get cold faster than adults.
- Don’t drink and boat: Alcohol affects both judgment and reactions, and its
effects are more pronounced on the water.
- Be weather wise. Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes and choppy water all
can mean a storm is brewing.
- Bring your cell phone in a waterproof zip lock bag. If you have cell phone
service, you can call for help without removing the phone from the bag.
- Take a boating safety course and receive your boating safety education card.
The Mandatory Boater Safety Education law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2008. The new law
requires boaters ages 12 years and older to pass a boating safety course or an equivalency
exam before operating a motorboat of 15 horsepower or greater. To find out more about the
new law, visit http://www.parks.wa.gov/boating/boatered/.
- Be aware of tides. Becoming stuck or stranded in a mud flat can be a
serious safety hazard.
Do a walk-around of your boat at the beginning of the season to be sure all bolts are bolted, all wires are intact and no trouble spots have developed over the winter.
Trade in your old flares for a discount on new ones - ask at your boating supply store.
Ask your local boating safety patrol about local boating rules.
Allow your blowers to run for at least four minutes after fueling before you turn on the engine.
Don’t drink and boat: Alcohol affects both judgment and reactions, and its effects are more pronounced on the water.
Tougher laws for boaters operating a boat under the influence (BUI) go into effect on July 28, 2013. Read the BUI fact sheet for details.
Water can be deceiving and the current can be deadly. Statistics show that wearing
a life jacket can save your life and the ones you love.
Local Sheriff's departments and some municipal police departments have life jacket loaner
programs. If you have forgotten your life jacket, contact them for a loaner jacket.
Did You Know?
- That buoyant cushions no longer satisfy the legal requirements for personal flotation devices on boats under 16 feet long?
- That life jackets or life vests - Type I, II or III Personal Floatation Devices - are now required for every occupant of these smaller craft?
- That, in addition to ALL vessels under 16 feet, the regulation applies to canoes and kayaks of ANY length?
- That this state regulation was changed in response to changes made by the United States Coast Guard?
- That state law requires life jackets be Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition and of proper size for the wearer?
- That half of all recreational boating deaths in Washington result from capsizing or falls overboard from boats under 16 feet long?
- That WEARING a Personal Flotation Device could have saved most of those lives AND MIGHT SAVE YOURS?
LIFE JACKETS (PFD'S) - The choice is yours
- Get and wear a Coast Guard approved PFD that fits well. Make sure it is the proper type and approved for your specific usage. Actually put it on, adjust it and test it in the water so you'll know how it will feel when needed. Do the same for family members - especially children. Knowing what to expect in the water can prevent panic. Non-swimmers should wear a PFD on any small boat.
- Never leave PFD's sealed in plastic wrapping. They must be ready to put on fast.
- Whenever water conditions or weather cause concern, have everyone aboard immediately put on a PFD.
- If you fall in the water, stay with the boat.