National Safe Boating Week Kicks Off May 22

NATIONWIDE— For nearly 65 years the National Safe Boating Council has been promoting safe boating practices through National Safe Boating Week.

“This awareness week draws attention to ‘the best boating experience is safe boating’,” said Yvonne Pentz, communications director of the NSBC, in an email. “Whether it’s taking a boating safety course, wearing a life jacket, using an engine cut-off device, and never boating under the influence, all of these things play a role in making your boating experience fun, memorable, and safe.”

National Safe Boating Week runs May 22 through 28 and is the annual kick-off of the Safe Boating Campaign, a global awareness effort that encourages boaters to make the most of their boating adventure by being responsible. It is led by the NSBC in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The NSBC reminds recreational boaters wearing a USCG-approved life jacket is the simplest life-saving strategy. USCG boating statistics for 2019 found 79 percent of boating deaths were due to drowning and 86 percent of victims were not wearing a life jacket. The USCG also found 70 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had no boating safety instruction.

The same report found California to be the third most deadly state for boating accidents in 2019 behind Texas and Florida, and second highest for the number of boating accidents in 2019 behind Florida.

The latest data from the California Department of Parks and Recreation Division of Boating and Waterways found there were 450 boating accidents statewide in 2019, 207 accidents with injuries and 41 fatalities. On the Southern California coast specifically, there were 156 accidents in 2019 compared to 36 in 2018, 52 injuries in 2019 compared to 19 in 2018 and five fatalities in 2019 compared to two in 2018. The DBW found the top cause of accidents in California in 2019 was operator inattention.

Pentz said the significant increase in all boating activities during COVID-19 has highlighted the very real need for safety education, outreach, and training for all recreational boaters.

“While on-water (in-person) learning opportunities dwindled or stopped in many states, online learning saw a significant increase,” said Pentz in an email. “Many states are now starting to ramp back up their on-water (in-person) classes, and I encourage new and returning boaters to take this opportunity to learn or brush up on skills.”

National Safe Boating Week got its start 1952 when a group of volunteers committed to sharing information about boating safety. Over the next few years this grew into a committee, and by 1958, this committee formed what is today the NSBC. That same year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the first proclamation officially establishing National Safe Boating Week. This awareness week is now celebrated annually the week before Memorial Day weekend, which is typically a busy boating weekend and kick-off to the summer boating season.

Due to the pandemic, many annual events that coincide with National Safe Boating Week have been canceled, including the 16th annual Channel Islands Harbor Safe Boating Expo. The free annual event usually includes harbor rescue demonstrations; hands-on training for the proper use of a fire extinguisher and flares; and free life jackets exchanges. Event chair Henry Goldman said they hope to return next year and encouraged boaters to visit for more resources.

“We wish everyone safe boating,” said Goldman.

The National Safe Boating Council encourages boaters to take these actions to ensure a safe boating experience:

  • Take a boating safety course.
  • Check equipment. Schedule a free vessel safety check with the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons to make sure all essential equipment is present, working and in good condition.
  • Make a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information, boat type, and registration, and communication equipment on board.
  • Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket – every time. A stowed life jacket is no use in an emergency.
  • Use an engine cut-off device – it’s the law. An engine cut-off device, or engine cut-off switch, is a proven safety device to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
  • Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during the excursion.
  • Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2019 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
  • Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Be familiar with the area, local boating speed zones and always travel at a safe speed.
  • Never boat under the influence. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.
  • Keep in touch. Have more than one communication device that works when wet. VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones, and cell phones can all be important devices in an emergency.
  • Ensure your life jacket fits properly. Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight. Make sure the life jacket is properly zipped and/or buckled. You can check for fit by raising your arms above your head while wearing the life jacket and asking a friend to grasp the shoulder lapels and gently pulling up. There should be no excess room above the openings and the life jacket should not ride up over your chin or face. A snug fit in these areas shows the life jacket fits properly.
  • Inspect your life jacket. Inspection should include orally inflating your life jacket and ensuring it holds air for 16-24 hours, inspecting the cylinder (there should be no discharge or corrosion), checking that the cylinder is screwed in tight, and doing a flotation check on inherently buoyant life jackets. Always refer to the owner’s manual.
  • Restock your first aid kit if necessary, replacing anything that has expired.
  • Ensure all battery-powered devices have fresh batteries.

For more information and tips visit


National Safe Boating Week Events

Wear Your Life Jacket at Work Day

Nationwide, May 21

Hosted by the NSBC, no matter where boaters are safely working, they can join in the fun by wearing their life jacket and posting creative pictures on social media for a chance to win a prize. Boaters can participate by sharing a picture of themselves wearing a life jacket at work (or home) on social media along with the hashtag #lifejacketatwork and tag @boatingcampaign. Boaters without social media can email photos to Winners will be chosen randomly throughout the day to receive boating swag from the Safe Boating Campaign, such as t-shirts, dry bags, first aid kits, stickers, and more.

Boat America Safety Course

Virtual, May 15 & 22, June 5 & 12, and June 12 & 13

Boat America is a boating certificate class that offers an in-depth boating safety course, and provides the knowledge needed to obtain a boating certificate. Topics include an introduction to boating, boating law, safety equipment, safe operation and navigation, boating emergencies, trailering, and sports. The course is held virtually online over the course of two days. For more information on the May 15 & 22 course, contact Richard Vogel by email at For more information on the June 5 & 12 course, contact Que Pho by email at and for the June 12 & 13 event contact Patrick Newburn by email at


Staff note: this article was updated to correct the spelling of Henry Goldman, which was incorrectly published as Harry Goldman. 

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