Summer Boating Tips

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy of Good Free Photos
If you own a boat, then you realize that summertime is prime time for boating.  Unlike the vast majority of the country where boaters only get to put their vessels in the water during the summer, in Florida we can boat practically all year long.  That being said, going out on the water during the summer in the Sunshine State means taking a few extra precautions. 

      1.      Beat the Heat – With afternoon temperatures in the nineties, need I remind all you Florida boaters that the worst time to be out on the water is during the heat of the day?  Why roast like a potato in the afternoon, when it is much more sensible (not to mention cooler) to be out on a boat either in the early morning or after sunset?  If you venture out during the daytime, make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen for every soul aboard.

      2.      Summer Squalls – Another reason to stay away from the water in the afternoon is due to pop up thunderstorms that appear almost every day.  Summer squalls pack winds of up to 60-knots which can whip the water into a frenzy or drive a vessel ashore or onto the rocks.  What’s even more deadly are the lightning bolts from the blue, as well as blinding spray that can make it nearly impossible to see other vessels.  Regardless of how bright and sunny the weather appears as you head out to the marina, a storm can pop up in minutes.  Don’t be caught by surprise.  Check the marine forecast before you cast off.

Image courtesy USCG
Get Bud Weiser off the helm – The hotter it gets the more adult beverages boaters consume.  Just as you can be pulled over and arrested for drinking and driving, don’t think you’re immune from prosecution on the water.  The same laws apply offshore as well.  If the Marine Patrol or Coast Guard stops your vessel and determines your blood alcohol level to be .08 or higher, you will be incarcerated.  What’s even worse is should a vessel be involved in an accident on the water where the skipper is found to be legally over the limit, expect the lawsuits to fly.

      4.      Follow the rules – Unlike drivers, boaters aren’t required to obtain a license to own and operate a boat.  While that may sound like a good thing, you need to understand that regardless of your on-the-water experience and training, you will be held liable to all the rules of the sea.  That means you can be stopped and boarded should you fail to heed the rules.  If your vessel is at least 16-feet long, you are required to have a USCG-approved life jacket for everybody on your boat, plus a Type-IV throwable device.  In addition, all children aboard are required to wear their life jackets.  If you don’t know the rules afloat, I strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with them by taking a course.  Failure to know the rules is no excuse should your vessel be involved in an incident.

      5.      Don’t overload your boat – Allowing too many people aboard is a recipe for disaster.  An overloaded boat does not respond well to the helm.  It’s also much more likely to capsize, particularly if wind and water kicks up.  It doesn’t take a storm to swamp a vessel, only a skipper who doesn’t know when to say when.

Image courtesy USCG
      6.      Are you prepared for an emergency? – If you or anyone aboard were to sustain an injury, are you prepared to help?  Before you answer that question, ask yourself if you have a first aid kit aboard, or a marine radio that you can use to call for help in the event the emergency is beyond your ability to cope.  Does your vessel have signal flare that can be used to signal other vessels should your boat wind up in trouble?  Do you have a SeaTow card that can be used in the event you run aground or your motor quits?  Have you inspected your fire extinguishers to make sure they are ready to come to the rescue should a fire break out aboard? 

      7.      Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. – The problem with CO is it can affect you and your crew before you know what hits you.  Anytime you run your engine or any gas-powered generator, you need to make sure the fumes don’t overcome those aboard.  Did you know that you can be poisoned by CO from a nearby vessel?  The only way to detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide is to install a detector on your vessel.  For around $20, you can protect you, your passengers and crew from this odorless menace.

      8.      Perform a pre-float check. – The last place you want to find out you have a problem is under way.  Before you leave the dock, perform a quick check to make sure your vessel is seaworthy and you have sufficient fuel.  Test the boats lights and electronics and check to make sure your anchor and ground tackle are ready to deploy.  Better yet, if you plan on heading out for more than a few hours, file a float plan with the marina or the Coast Guard.  This will help the authorities come to your assistance should your vessel fail to return in a timely manner.

      9.      Don’t rely on inexperienced crew to help you handle your boat.  I remember an incident that happened a few years ago where I asked a crew member to tie up the bow as I approached the dock at Mayport Marine in a Catalina 30.  Instead of stepping onto the dock with the dock line, he handed the line to a stranger who was standing on the dock.  The stranger held onto the line instead of looping it around a cleat.  This was a mistake that caused the stranger to wind up being pulled off the dock into the water.  Fortunately, I was able to keep my vessel from crushing him against the dock and my crew managed to fish him out of the drink.  From that day forward, I added this story to my pre-sail briefing so my crew would never again delegate an order I had given them.

      10.  Perform a safety briefing before you cast off. – While small boats are referred to as pleasure craft, they can also be hazard zones to the uninitiated.  It only takes one moment to turn a day of fun in the sun on the water into a disaster.  Before you cast off, take five minutes to brief crew and passengers on the dos and don’ts of safe boating. 

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on home owner’s insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Increase your chances of having a safe summer boating season by taking a few precautions before you leave the dock.

  2. My tip is to avoid drinking too much while boating. So many accidents are caused by drinking impairment that is not funny.

  3. Free boat safety information including videos at


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