Boating Safely in Western New York

Owning a boat in Western New York opens up incredible opportunities to explore the region, and allow you to enjoy the warm-weather months to the fullest! But as they say - with great power comes great responsibility. And observing safe boating practices is a responsibility every boat owner must incorporate into their boating routine, to ensure a fun and safe environment for all.

Luckily, there are many resources available to boat owners to ensure they are in full safety compliance and operating in a way that keeps all individuals and property as safe as possible. For general and comprehensive boating safety guidelines and information, the US Coast Guard is a great resource. 

The US Coast Guard Boating Safety website includes information on accident reporting, the importance of life jackets, the dangers of boating under the influence, propellor safety, and the hazards of carbon monoxide. It also provides opportunities for boater education, allows boat owners to schedule imperative vessel safety checks, and discusses the importance of filing a float plan.

There are, however, a few key safety areas that are important to consider before spending the day on the water with family and friends:

  1. Ensure you are equipped with all necessary safety gear.  Having the right tools aboard can prepare you for any situation on the water.
    1. Flashlights and extra batteries to ensure you can see in the dark, and alert other boaters to your presence in low visibility. 
    2. Duct tape - duct tape is a great temporary fix for anything - including a leak!
    3. First aid kit - critical to have on board in case of an accident or emergency.
    4. Fire extinguisher - having a fire extinguisher on board, and knowing how to use it - is an important safety feature.
    5. Whistle - a whistle can help you signal for help if needed.
    6. Rope - helpful in not only tying down your boat or gear, but for pulling others aboard if needed.
    7. Weather-appropriate gear: Protect yourselves, and your items on board, from inclement weather.
    8. LIFE JACKETS: by far the most important safety feature to keep aboard every vessel. Make sure your life jackets are Coast Guard approved, and that you have one for each individual onboard.
  2. Have proper life jackets on board. Having US Coast Guard-approved life jackets on board for each individual is required by law. In New York state, children under the age of 12 wear a life jacket at all times. Be sure to try life jackets on when shopping to ensure they are appropriate for the ages and height/weight of your passengers.
  3. Check the weather. Be sure to check the weather forecast for your trip to ensure a storm won’t be joining you while you’re on the water. Pay attention to the wind and state of the water as well - choppy water and windy conditions could indicate an approaching storm.
  4. Follow proper docking and anchoring procedures. 
  5. Be aware of carbon monoxide. Harmful fumes can gather in/around your boat, posing a serious threat to your passengers. Be mindful of inadequately ventilated and enclosed spaces, and your engine whilst it idles.
  6. Take a boating safety course. Before hitting the water, make sure to know the rules of operation, and your responsibilities. The US Coast Guard offers a host of online and onsite boat safety trainings. Additionally, The Boat U.S. Foundation also offers free online boating safety courses developed specifically for your state.
  7. Get your boat checked. The US Coast Guard Auxillary offers vessel safety checks free of charge, and with no consequences if your boat doesn’t pass inspection.
  8. Know the rules of the water. Driving on the water can be as dangerous as driving on the highway, if you don’t observe the nautical rules of the road. Before heading out for the season, brush up on safe boating practices. The US Coast Guard has easily accessible navigation rules available for download, to ensure you’re boating as safely as possible.
  9. Develop a float plan. Much like a travel tip itinerary, a float plan is helpful in collecting all the information about your trip, should it be needed in an emergency. Typical float plans include full contact information of boat owner and passengers; boat type and registration information; trip itinerary; and, types of equipment onboard. You can find an easily downloadable float plan template here for your use.
  10. Use common sense - boat safely.  Use your best judgement and obey the rules of the water at all times. Stay alert, boat at a safe speed, don’t consume alcohol, and ensure you and your passengers are behaving safely. Not all emergencies can be predicted or avoided, but using common sense can help you be as prepared and safe as possible. 

Above all, be sure to know the New York boating laws and ensure you’re in full compliance with the current regulations. Now that you’re ready to enjoy the water in Western New York, visit our Boating Destination Map & Dining Guide and plan an unforgettable season!