Guide to Boat Safety for 2022

Jun 5, 2021 | From The CEO, Personal Insurance

Boating is one of the recreational activities widely enjoyed in the United States. With the vast number of oceans, rivers, and lakes to cruise around, it is understandable why Americans love boating. There’s a lot of enjoyable water activities like sailing, skiing and catching fishes. Most states in the USA require boating safety education, especially for persons below 18. And in this article, we are providing you a guide to boat safety for 2022.

Don’t Rock The Boat

As much fun and exciting boating bring, let’s face the fact that this hobby comes with safety risks and hazards. That’s why it is highly recommended to learn boat safety practices to ensure the safe cruising of all your passengers on board. Before you venture into this great adventure, let’s dive deep down into the responsibilities you must know when you’re boating. 

Benefits of Boat Safety Course:

  • A boat safety course study guide will educate students about different boat types, uses, and capacities.
  • The boat safety course explains the safety equipment needed for a boating excursion. Complete boating equipment provides access to emergency services in the event of a catastrophe.
  • A boat safety guideline will educate about the wide difference between navigating a boat and driving a car. Navigating a vessel is much more complex than driving a car as it deals with air and water current. It will discuss navigating rules, anchoring, and docking.
  • The basic boat safety course teaches the proper way to secure a watercraft. It will demonstrate how to operate with lines and tying knots. Current can easily take away your watercraft, that’s why it is necessary to properly anchor your ship. 
  • Boating education will guide you about the rules of the road and the right of way.
  • The boating safety course also tackles navigation charts, sounds, and lights.
  • The boat license study guide will help you follow state laws and requirements.
  • Boat safety education can decrease your insurance premiums.

For most people, boating may be just a recreational activity. But people must understand that boating comes with huge safety responsibilities. Accidents don’t only happen on roads; they could also happen in water. According to American Boating Association, there are more than 4,000 boat accidents reported every year. Lack of boat education is the common cause of boating accidents.

It is important to have in-depth knowledge about boat safety practices and regulations. This will help in preventing injuries, accidents, and property damage.

Boating Requirements and Laws

Every state has different boating requirements and laws. The state of Colorado requires teenagers aged 14-15 to undergo a boating safety course. Prerequisite or not, it is essential to have knowledge about boat safety to prevent water accidents and injuries. Almost all states in the US require boat safety certificates. Few states do not oblige boat safety education such as Alaska, Guam, South Dakota, Virgin Islands, and Wyoming. 

The Boat

It is important to differentiate the types, uses, and capacity of boats. This will help in determining the appropriate sailboat for your boating needs and activities. Comprehensive knowledge about boat registration and preventive maintenance is also a plus.

  • Boat Types and Uses

Boat types are usually classified by their hull. A hull is the bottom of the boat. Hulls come in different forms and shapes. A hull form states the kind of boating it’s tailored for while its shape determines its handling and efficiency. 

Classification of Hulls
  1. Planing Hulls

This kind of hull can rise and ride out of the water. There are various shapes of planning hulls. Each shape corresponds to its uses, benefits, and advantages.

  • Flat bottom

This type of hull is solid and can withstand heavy loads. It is good for fishing as it has a shallow outline and has a wide deck space.

  • V-bottom

Powerboats commonly have a V-bottomed hull. This kind of hull is suitable for wavy water or off-shore. 

  • Tri-hull or Tunnel 

It has an M-shaped bottom. This kind of hull is usually utilized for sports and modern boats. 

  1. Displacement Hulls

This kind of hull has a rounded bottom. Displacement hulls move smoothly in water and are efficient in carrying heavy loads. That’s why most trawlers and recreational sailboats have displacement hulls.

  1. Multi-Hull

A multi-hull sailboat consists of one or more types of hulls. This kind of hull gives great stability in the water. The most common examples of multi-hull boats are catamarans, trimarans, and pontoons.

  • Boat Capacities

Vessels have varying loads and capacities. Load and capacity determine the appropriate weight of people, fuel, and gear on board. Various factors determine the safe weight load. Factors like the weight of the engine, hull volume, and dimension. Every boat should have a capacity plate that indicates safe load limits. 

Capacity plates usually contain the following information:

  •  Maximum individual quantity in pounds
  •  Maximum weight volume in pounds (person, gear, and engine)
  • Maximum horsepower capacity

Registration Requirements

Like cars, boats have registration too. Marine patrols may occasionally do a routine check which includes:

  • Equipment check
  • Vessel number
  • Registration
  • Hull Identification Number (HIN)

Preventive Maintenance

It is important to perform a sailboat inspection at least twice per season. This will prevent the watercraft from sinking. It is vital to do a comprehensive inspection of the whole boat. Inspection should include the following:

  • Outdrive Boots
  • Mufflers
  • Dockside Freshwater Hookups
  • Through-hull Fittings
  • Scuppers and Drains
  • Seacock and Valves
  • Inboard Motors
  • Outboard and Outdrive Motors
  • Fuel System
  • Electrical Connections

Boating Equipment

To ensure smooth and safe sailing, it is important to have the necessary types of equipment needed for boating. This will provide protection and help deal with emergencies. Apart from that, state regulations obligate boaters to have complete boating equipment.

Types of Equipment Required

The U.S. Coast Guard and state laws require necessary boating equipment depending on the type and size of the ship.

  • Personal Flotation Device

Life jackets are personal flotation devices used in case of boating accidents. There are five types of flotation devices according to boating activities and water conditions. It also has variations in buoyancy, performance level, and limitations.

Type I Inherently Buoyant

Best for racing, offshore fishing, cruising, or stormy weather. It has a minimum buoyancy of 22 pounds. It offers the best protection as it keeps the head above the water and retains body heat. It is typically operated in rough, remote, or open water.

Type II Near-shore Inherently Buoyant

This type of flotation device is suitable for cruising, racing, stormy weather, and offshore fishing. It has minimum buoyancy of 15.5 pounds thus providing less flotation ability than type I.

Type III Flotation Aid Inherently Buoyant

It is usually used in dinghy races, sailing regattas, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and water skiing. It is good to operate in protected inland water near shore. It has a low buoyancy of 15.5 lbs making it comfortable to wear.

Type IV Throwable Device Inherently Buoyant

This device is beneficial for a victim or person needing supplemental buoyancy. These devices must be readily available for usage. 

It has two types:

Ring buoy (16.5 lbs)

Boat Cushion (18 lbs)

Type V Special Use Device

This type of flotation device is specially made to use as a sailboard harness, float coats, deck suit, and commercial white water vest. It has a buoyancy capacity of 15.5 to 22 pounds. 

Fire Fighting Equipment in Boats

Fire fighting equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard depends on the size of the vessel, kind of propulsion, and operation. 

  • All boats must have Coast Guard-approved fire extinguishers. (Learn about how to use a fire extinguisher here.)
  • All fire extinguishers must be in functional condition. 
  • All fire extinguishers should be immediately accessible.
  • All watercraft below 26 feet in length must have a minimum of 1 unit of a 2-pound hand-portable extinguisher. There’s no need for a fire extinguisher if the ship has installed an approved fire extinguisher system. 
  • Boats measuring from 26-39 feet long must have at least 2 units of a 2-pound portable extinguisher or 1 unit of a 2.5-pound fire extinguisher.
  • Boats with a measurement of 40-65 feet in length should have three pieces of a 2-pound portable extinguisher. For an alternative, one piece of 2-pound and one piece of 2.5-pound portable fire extinguisher.
  • Fire Classification

Knowledge of different classifications of fire is essential in dealing with fire emergencies. It is important to determine the location and source of fire to properly suppress a fire.

Classification of Fire:

Class A 

The source of Class A fire is combustible solid materials like wood, rubber, paper, cloth, and different types of plastics.

Class B

Flammable liquids like gasoline, stove alcohol, diesel, oil, grease, kerosene, flammable gases, etc. caused this type of fire.

Class C

Class C fires involve energized electrical equipment. 

  • Types of Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers come in different types according to their extinguishing agent. 

It effectively suppresses fire caused by organic materials like paper and wood.

It is potent in extinguishing fire induced by organic materials and flammable liquids. 

This type of extinguisher is efficient in controlling fire caused by organic materials, flammable liquids, gases, and metals.

This is specially designed to deal with fire caused by inflammable liquid and electrical equipment.

This is best to use in fires involving organic materials and cooking oils.

  • Visual Distress Signals

Visual distress signal devices are beneficial for boaters requesting help. The federal law requires all boats operated in U.S. coastal waters to have visual distress signals. During the daytime, open boats and manually propelled boats only need to carry night signals.

  • Types of Visual Distress Signals

There are several types of visual distress devices you can utilize when emergencies arise. It is important to have proper devices to immediately and effectively get help.

  • Day use only

This kind of visual signal is only visible during the daytime. Examples are sea-marker dye, orange distress signal flag, and signal mirror.

  • Night use only

Night use devices like electric distress lights are distinguishable during nighttime.

  • Day and night use

This signaling device is efficient both during daytime or nighttime. It includes handheld and parachute flare distress signals.

  • Ventilation System

Every ship with an enclosed area must have a good ventilation system. It helps in preventing the formation of mildew and foul odor. For boats with gasoline motorized engines, a ventilation system is mandatory. 

  • Backfire Flame Arrestor

This safety tool is essential in preventing exhaust backfire to cause an explosion. 

  • Communications Equipment 

It is essential to have onboard communication to ensure welfare while boating. A boater must secure two types of waterproof communication tools to use in case of emergencies.

  • Cellphones

Cellular Phones provide convenience in terms of keeping in touch with land-based people. The downside of this type of communication equipment is, it’s usually not water-resistant and has a limited reception range.

These types of devices are usually used for personal and non-commercial use. It has a range of 1-2 miles, best to use while communicating with people onboard. 

  • Citizen Band Radios

Boaters use this device to access two-way radio communication. It has around 40 channel frequencies. It has a capacity range of up to five miles. 

  • Satellite Communications

It is a type of communication system utilizing a small portable telephone. One example of this satellite communication is Iridium. It transmits voice phone calls.

  • VHF Radios

It is the primary communication tool used in boats all over the United States. It is mainly used to communicate the following:

  • Distress calling and safety 
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Broadcasts
  • Ship to shore communications
  • Navigation (ship to bridges)
  • Marine operators
  • Licensing

Boaters who fall in the following categories need to secure VHF Ship Station License. 

  • Owner with boat size of 65 feet or longer
  • When a boater travels or broadcasting in a foreign port (the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Canada)
  • When using single-sideband radios or Inmarsat equipment
  • Navigation (ships to bridges)
  • Commercial vessels
  • Radio Channels

VHF radios consist of more than 25 usable channels including international and Canadian channels. There are some important channels boaters must know.

Important VHF Radio Channels:
  • Channel 13 Distress calling and safety, ship-to-ship and ship-to-coast
  • Channel 16 Federal Communications Commission’s national distress, safety, and calling frequency
  • Channel 19 Commercial working channels for commercial vessels
  • Channel 22 U.S. Coastguard Channel
  • Channel 70 Digital Selective Calling for distress calls
  • Emergency Procedures

There are specific procedures to follow when communicating in emergencies. 

  1. Mayday 

It is an emergency procedure word that indicates a distress signal. It conveys an emergency needing urgent assistance.

  1. Pan-Pan

It signifies urgent information like accidents aboard and boats drifting away to the shore.

  1. Securite 

It indicates the safety of navigation like extreme weather information or large vessels passing through narrow channels and fairways.

Trip Planning and Preparation

Boaters must know the safety rules and responsibilities before sailing. Regardless of the purpose of boating, it is important to educate yourself with the necessary boat and safety knowledge. This will ensure a safe and fun boating experience for you and your passengers.

  • Know your boat

It is important to have adequate knowledge about boating. Important aspects of boating boaters must know like boat type, capacity, equipment, and operation.

  • Who will aboard

Before you go on a sail, it is essential to know who will be your passengers aboard. To ensure the security and comfort of your guests, it is necessary to discuss important information and concerns like:

  • Location and proper usage of life jackets
  • Medical conditions
  • Safety hazards for children
  • Target destination

It is necessary to plan your trip ahead of time. This will help you in securing the necessary equipment and valuables to bring. 

  • Environment

It is best to check the weather condition before start sailing. It is also important to be ready in case there are sudden weather changes.

  • Equipment issues

Having adequate and appropriate equipment is beneficial in ensuring safe and fun travel. Following the State and Federal minimum carriage requirements is a must. 

Weather 

The weather is one of the most crucial factors in successful and safe sailing. Sudden weather changes pose a significant safety risk in boating. It is important to know how to read the weather to keep you and your passengers onboard safe. Boaters can check real-time weather information through NOAA weather radio.

  • Wind and Current

Wind and current play a crucial role in safe sailing. Strong wind and current can generate large strong waves enough to capsize a boat.

  • Thunderstorms and Lightning Strikes

A formation of thick and dark clouds can be a sign of thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are often accompanied by thunder and lightning strikes. 

  • Weather Avoidance

It is important to check weather updates before and during sailing. NOAA weather radio provides reliable and on-time weather reports. It is important to tune in to their radio channels to receive weather forecasts and warnings.

Environmental Responsibilities

To continuously enjoy the wonders of mother nature, every one of us has the responsibility to protect and keep it clean. The federal government had created laws and regulations about garbage disposal.

  • Environmental Laws and Regulations

It is strictly prohibited to throw garbage in any bodies of water while sailing. In case of violation of the law, there are corresponding penalties and fines. A fine of $25,000-$50,000 and up to 5 years imprisonment if you get caught violating the anti-littering law.

  • Transportation of Aquatic Species

It is also against the law to transport various aquatic species to any body of water they do not belong to. Transportation of aquatic species can disrupt the natural balance of different bodies of water.

  • Human Waste Disposal

According to sanitation regulations, boats with built-in toilets must have a sanitation system on board.

  • Disposal of Toxic Substances

Boats may contain hazardous substances which need to be properly disposed of. It is illegal to unload any petroleum product in any body of water. Improper disposal of toxic substances is subject to criminal charges and penalties. 

Navigation and Maneuvering

Just like on the road, there are traffic rules and regulations in waterways. The right of way rules depends on the type and location of the vessel. It is important to know different navigation rules to avoid accidents on the water. 

  • Right of Way Rules 

Right-of-way rules vary according to location. There are specific rules to follow based on your vessel’s location.

  • International Rules
  • Inland Rules
  • Great Lakes
  • Western Rivers
  • Vessel Types

Apart from location rules, it is also important to know the type of vessel you are operating. Right-of-way rules also depend on the type of vessel. Pecking order determines which vessel has the right of way. Vessels that come first to the list are the top priority. Vessels belonging to the lower list are the give-way vessels.

Pecking Order

  • Overtaken Vessel 
  • Vessels not under Command
  • Vessels with maneuverability restrictions
  • Vessels constrained by draft
  • Fishing vessels engaged in fishing 
  • Sailing Vessels
  • Power-driven vessels
  • Boater Responsibilities

The rules of the road prevent accidents in the water. Boat operators must adhere to these rules:

  • Give-way Vessel

A boat operator with this kind of vessel must give way to avoid vessel collision.

  • Stand-on Vessel

This type of vessel has the right to maintain its course and speed. 

  • Collision Avoidance

Boaters must strictly adhere to set rules to avoid collision with other vessels. 

  • Boat operators must follow the rules regardless of condition visibility.
  • The operator must visually and audibly alert at all times.
  • The operator should proceed with caution and proper speed. 
  • Refrain from making sudden course changes.

Navigations Sounds

Navigation sounds help avoid collision accidents. It allows vessels to communicate intended movements with other vessels.

  • Legal Requirements

The required navigation sound devices needed to depend on the size of the vessel.

  • A boat measuring less than 39.4 feet in length must have at least one navigation sound device. It can be a whistle, air horn, or bell.
  • A boat with a length of 39.5-65.5 feet must have a bell and whistle. The opening of the bell must have a size of 7.87 inches in diameter. The whistle must be detectable within a half nautical mile. 
  • Maneuvering Signals

Sailors use different blast combinations to communicate intended boat movements. Sound signal meaning depends on the location of the boat. Boat operators must follow sound signal rules.

  • One short blast means “I intend to leave you on my portside” if you go by a nearby boat. If you are behind another vessel, it means “I plan to pass you on your starboard side, my port side”.
  • One prolonged blast is an indication of leaving the dockside.
  • Two short blasts mean “I intend to leave you on my starboard side”
  • Three short blasts signify running on astern propulsion.
  • One prolonged blast and three short blasts convey the message of leaving a dock in reverse.
  • Five short blasts imply a danger signal.

Navigation Lights

During nighttime or reduced visibility, all vessels must display suitable light signals. Navigation lights help boaters to see other nearby boats and vice versa. This greatly helps in the avoidance of collisions. All vessels are legally required to display proper navigation lights throughout the day regardless of weather conditions.

Aids to Navigation

Aids to Navigation (ATON) is useful in notifying boaters of the location, route, distance, and hazards present in the water.

  • Types of Aid to Navigation
  • Buoys are floating items attached to the bottom of the shore. It has unique colors and shapes which have a corresponding purpose.
  • Beacons are structures permanently settled on the ocean floor or inland. One good example of beacons is a lighthouse.
  • Channel Markers

Channel markers help sailors to travel safely in waterways. It indicates which part of the waterway is navigable. Markers serve as a guide in avoiding hazards in the water.

  • Color

Channel markers come in two colors, red and green. Red means “red, right, returning”. Red markers guide boaters in returning from open water. Green markers guide sailors going into the open water.

  • Shape

Red markers are triangular while green markers have a square shape.

  • Number

The number in the channel markers signifies your distance from the open water. The marker’s number decreases as you head onto the open water while the number increases as you return from the open water. Green markers have odd numbers while the red markers have even numbers.

Navigation Charts

Navigation charts are one of the most fundamental tools in boating. It is a roadmap that illustrates the structure and composition of the open water, coastlines, seafloor, and shoreline. It is an essential tool in maintaining the welfare of boaters. It specifies the position of hazards to navigation, anchorage, water depths, and location and features of ATON.

Docking

When it comes to boating, docking a boat is one of the most difficult to master. Successfully docking a boat takes a lot of time and practice. Docking a boat needs a great deal of hard work and effort. Boaters must consider various factors to successfully dock a boat with flying colors.

  • Check how much space and consider other vessels in the docking area.
  • Movement and position of other boats in the area.
  • Consider the movement of the wind as it greatly affects docking.
  • Current also plays a huge part in the successful docking of the boat.

Tying up a Boat

Proper docking of a boat involves tying up a boat. Boaters need to learn how to properly handle lines and tying knots. 

5 Basic Boating Knots

  1. Cleat Hitch

This knot is best used for dragging a boat in the fueling dock or securing an anchor line.

  1. Clove Hitch 

A clove knot is typically used to secure a line to a rail, secure fenders, and hang coils of lines for stowage.

  1. Bowline knots

It is often used in connecting two lines, securing and piling lines.

  1. Half-hitch or Overhand knot

This is the simplest form for boating knots. It is often applied in securing an end of a line after tying another knot.

  1. Figure Eight

It serves as a stopper knot. It is useful in stopping lines from passing through something.

Anchoring

With the constant wind, current, and weather changes, proper anchoring will safeguard your boat from drifting away. It is important to consider these three main factors when choosing a suitable anchor for your boat.

  • Boat 

It is crucial to consider your boat’s type, weight, and size in choosing the appropriate anchor for your boat. 

  • Anchor Location

You need to take into account where you are going to anchor your boat. One key factor in the selection of anchor is the characteristic of the ocean floor where you are going to anchor your boat. Check if it is bay mud, sand, or rocky bottoms.

  • Local conditions

It is also necessary to check the local condition of the area where you’re going to anchor your boat. Check for the typical weather, tide, wind, and current conditions of the area.

  • Anchor Types

It is important to follow the three factors in choosing an applicable anchor for your boat.

  • Lightweight or Danforth Anchors

This works best in small recreational boats. It is efficient in hard sand or mud areas.

  • Kedge or Navy Anchors

Widely used by large ships in rocky, hard sand, heavy grass/weeds areas. 

  • Grapnels Anchors

It is commonly used by small boats. It is also used for wreck reef anchoring or recovering articles in the bottom of the sea.

  • Plow or Delta/CQR Anchors

It is best for cruising boaters in weed, grass, sandy, rocky bottoms.

  • Claw or Bruce Anchors

It has similar characteristics and usage with plow anchors.

  • Mushroom Anchors

It works best for small boats in soft bottoms.

Boat Insurance Coverage

Ensuring complete and foolproof safety is next to impossible. You can study all the guides about boat safety, but no one can guarantee 100% safe sailing. No one is immune to accidents. So, what’s the next best thing to do? Secure boat insurance. No one can avoid an accident if it’s meant to happen. But at least you’re protected from the possible consequences of an accident. As you go sailing, boat insurance will be there on standby.

What does Boat Insurance Cover?

There are two types of boat insurance policies you may choose from. You can choose depending on the price and coverage you need. 

Types of Boat Insurance Coverage

  1. Actual Cash Value 

The actual Cash Value Policy will pay for the replacement of the boat in its current market value. It is important to take into account that you may suffer depreciation loss upon calculation of current market value. In terms of repair, the calculation will be based on the total repair cost minus less depreciation.

  1. Agreed Amount Value

This policy will pay for the replacement of the agreed market value between the insurer and boat owner. Repairs are on a “new for old” basis. This will cover payments for repair without depreciation percentage. 

As the world tries to return to normal, moving forward from 2021 and onto 2022, it is still important to educate yourself about boat safety practices. With the help of the internet, you can easily take an online boat safety course. This will ensure you’ll have safe and fun sailing. A well-equipped and insured boat with a well-informed captain will guarantee an enjoyable trip. A responsible sailor is well-equipped and well-informed. On all occasions, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Our team of insurance experts makes sure people get to enjoy the things they love. We value everyone’s needs and safety. Boating with Advantage Insurance Solutions will surely make your adventure secure and fun. So call us today and get the right boating insurance coverage you need.