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Safety Tips That Will Float Your Boat for July 4

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and this rowdy holiday can present unsafe situations from drinking, crowds, and fireworks. Here is a collection of trustworthy tips that will keep you and your passengers safe while out on the water this holiday.

According to Elite Care Emergency Hospital, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day account for more than one third of all boating related accidents and fatalities each year. With Fourth of July being one of the busiest boating holidays of the year it’s important to remember every safety protocol available. With help from the Water Sports foundation, here are seven tips that will keep you and others safe this holiday.


  1. Plan ahead and be prepared
  • Boaters should thoroughly inspect their vessel and trailer to ensure everything is in working order. Check with the local Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron for free vessel safety checks.
  • Conduct a pre-departure check to ensure all required safety equipment is secured, on board, and operational.
  • Lifejackets! Ensure lifejackets are readily available and have been appropriately sized for every passenger, especially children.
  • Check weather conditions and plan accordingly. Be prepared to find shelter or return home if inclement weather is approaching.
  • Never overload your boat. Check the capacity plate and follow all weight mandates.
  • If you are operating a boat 26 feet or smaller make sure to comply with the new federal law requiring boat operators to wear and engage an ECOS: Emergency Cut-Off Switch. Worn by the captain, this safety lanyard will shut off the engine immediately in the case of an overboard
  • Make sure VHF radios, phones, and EPIRB transponders work and are set to Channel 16. Consider carrying a portable cell phone battery charger as a backup.
  • Pack sunscreen, a first-aid kit, and a basic toolkit.


  1. Document a float plan
  • Create a simple document that includes names and contact information of all guests aboard the boat, along with planned destinations, expected departure, and return times.
  • Leave the plan with marina personnel or responsible emergency contacts but be sure that there is another party that knows your plans and whereabouts.


  1. Pre-Departure Communications
  • An essential and often overlooked boater safety strategy is a captain’s brief for the crew before departure to go over safe boating protocols and practices.
  • This may include instructions for passengers to remain seated when the boat is underway; keep arms and legs within the vessel; wear life jackets, review pre-appointed assignments such as designated observers during watersports activities, etc.


  1. Designate a sober skipper
  • Drinking and driving is illegal and will cost you a BUI. Boating under the influence is a big part of boating-related deaths in the United States. com offers updated statistics, laws, penalties, and tips for boating and the consequences of drinking and driving.
  • The severe effects of sun, wind, and water, when coupled with the consumption of alcohol, are a dangerous cocktail and recipe for potential disaster. Your skipper should stay sober and hydrated to perform at their top capabilities.



  1. Raft-Up Tips for Larger Boat Gatherings
  • If you’re an inexperienced boater, avoid navigating jam-packed boating hotspots until you’ve gained more experience operating in crowded conditions. Even seasoned skippers should exercise extra precaution when joining a big boating bash.
  • If you plan to raft-up with other boating friends, meet in advance to discuss strategies before departure, so everyone knows the game plan.
  • Choose your spot carefully. Remember, if you’re positioned in the center of the action, don’t expect to make a swift or simple getaway.
  • As you approach the destination, slow down to idle speed.
  • A crew member should be given a designated observer role in charge of looking out for anchored and moving boats in your path along with swimmers, paddlers, and tubers in the area—approach with caution.
  • Once you’ve selected your location, the largest boat in the fleet should anchor first with appropriate line lengths, along with fenders extended on both sides.
  • As the raft-up ensues, consider using a boat hook to help secure boats together. Once hooked, the captain is free to cut the engine, throw dock lines and connect.
  • Where possible, tie off at least two dock lines to each boat’s cleats, preferably at the bow or midship and one at the stern.
  • The same slow and deliberate approach should be taken at departure.



  1. Nighttime Maneuvers and Fireworks
  • Before departing, know all approved anchoring locations issued by area maritime authorities; comply accordingly. Chart your route in advance and map positions for navigation markers that may be difficult to see at night. Where possible, deploy GPS electronics to aid in navigation.
  • Test lights before departing to ensure your boat’s running and anchor lights are working. For extra safety, carry a spotlight and flares.
  • Be sure your fire extinguisher is aboard and readily accessible.
  • Give yourself adequate time to reach and return to and from your targeted destination. Due to weakened visibility and less predictable distractions, travel at slower speeds.
  • Be patient and plan for delays at busy marinas, boat ramps, and docks.
  • Keep your boat safely distanced from the fireworks barge, as well as from other boaters. If a firework is launched incorrectly, you want to ensure you have enough distance between you and the barge.
  • Never ignite fireworks of any type, including sparklers from your boat.
  • Report illegal fireworks activities.


  1. Paddle Safety
  • Always wear a life jacket. Three-quarters of people who died while paddling in 2019 were not wearing a life jacket. According to, 86 percent of boating fatalities are caused by drowning due to the lack of a lifejacket.
  • Dress for the weather and the water temperature.
  • Know and follow the local boating rules. Whether you like it or not, you’re the little guy. Be careful around other boats and avoid the crowds when you can.
  • See and be seen. Wear bright clothing and keep a whistle in reach (pro tip: clip it to your life jacket). This is especially important in congested waters.
  • Choose your location carefully. Make sure your skill, experience, and craft match your chosen waterway.


Review these tips and practice what they suggest and you’re in for a safe and fun fourth on the water!

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