by Captain Stephan Reckie
One of the things I have always enjoyed most about owning a boat is sharing it with friends and loved ones as passengers.
Even as a motorcycle rider, I always made sure that my passengers understood the basics of riding and how to be the best passenger for our safety. I believe that it is important for a boat
owner to share safety and courtesy tips with your passengers, just as an airline captain does on airplanes. I have pulled together some suggestions of topics that would be great to share with
passengers before leaving the dock.
Respectful Rules of the “Road”
- Boaters pulling skiers, boarders, tubers, and surfers usually have the right of way, except over non-motorized vessels. You
should always have a trusted passenger be a second lookout to let you know of any dangers or hazards
- Don’t follow another boat too closely that is towing a skier. If the skier wipes out, you need to allow yourself enough
space and time to turn without running them over.
- Jetskis should not jump the wakes of boats, which is especially important when a boat is towing skiers or
- When approaching a stopped boat, don’t come too close, as there might be someone swimming or in the water alongside the
Boat Operator Responsibilities
- A distracted boat driver is not a safe and responsible boat driver.
- Know how to launch your boat off a ramp and how to back your trailer and load your boat safely, including all passengers and
equipment, as most likely others are waiting in line to do the same.
- Make sure that you inform your passengers of the location of fire extinguishers, life jackets, a throwable cushion, and your
first aid kit in case of a person overboard or any emergency
- If possible, make sure that someone else can also operate the boat in case you fall overboard or get
- You are responsible to make sure that children under 13 are always wearing Coast Guard-approved life jackets and that they are
seated while underway.
- You are responsible for any damage or harm from your wake from your boat to the shoreline, so slow down near the shore and keep
your wake to a minimum.
- If you are towing or pulling a skier, as the operator you must keep watch on what is in front of you and designate a spotter to
watch the skier or tuber. That spotter is also responsible for raising an orange flag if the person is in the water or not being towed. When you resume movement, the flag should be
lowered to let others know that you are moving.
- Make sure that your boat doesn’t pollute or that your passengers don’t litter.
- Fueling boats on the water require extra precautions to avoid spillage, so please contact me for information on easy siphon
- Always pay attention and be a defensive boat operator.
- Don’t be a rope hog - always take turns with others that want to ride behind the boat.
- Cheer everyone on when they are trying something new for the first time, like wakeboarding, slalom skiing, or surfing.
It’s just as much fun watching someone challenge themselves. You will have a turn soon enough and will want to receive the same encouragement.
- Get involved and offer to help with spotting and managing the orange flag. Keep a lookout, and let the driver know when a
skier has fallen.
- Passengers should take off their shoes when getting in the boat, which helps keep the carpet and upholstery
- If a passenger is a skilled boat driver, it's nice to offer to drive to give the boat owner a break.
- Smokers should be careful where their ashes fly when smoking, as they can cause harm and a possible
- Don’t apply spray sunscreens while on board, as they can damage carpet and boat interiors.
- Offer to bring snacks and drinks, choosing ones that are fairly “clean” to eat.
- After a fun-filled day of boating it's nice to offer to help load and wipe down the boat, organize gear, and remove trash.
Even offer to come back another day to help give the boat a good cleaning, inside and out!
- Always be thankful! Boat owners love to share the boating experience with their friends and family, and they want you to
have a good time. Most often they love a simple thank you in return, but keep in mind that running a boat does cost money, so gratitude is always appreciated by the
- Stay in your seat when the boat is moving and make sure that all children are seated as well, and not
- Always let the driver of a stopped boat know when you are getting in the water.
Having fun is a big reason for boating on a lake, and as a reminder, safe navigation and operation is the group responsibility of
all boaters. To make sure that you have the proper equipment in good condition, the US Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters, including personal watercraft and paddle sport users
(kayaks, canoes, paddleboards) take advantage of a free, voluntary Vessel Safety Check (VSC) every
As the Lake Safety Educator on the LLPOA Board and a certified US Coast Guard Vessel Safety Examiner, it would be a pleasure to
perform your VSC and/or answer any boating questions that you may have. Also, I plan to teach a half-day boating safety class in the local area, so if you are interested, please email me
Have a great Spring and Summer boating season! I look forward to seeing you having fun safely on Loon