The last thing you’re thinking about when cruising on a boat, soaking up the rays and riding those waves is having an accident. But no matter how skilled you are at boating, accidents can still happen. Before you cast off into the water, follow our tips to make sure your next boating trip is that much more relaxing.

Before Your Boating Trip

Before you go on your trip, you’ll want to get your boating license or certificate. Afterall, driving a boat is much like driving a vehicle. Every state has its own requirements when it comes to operating a powerboat, sailboat or other personal watercraft, with most states requiring a safety and education course to obtain your license. The good news is most states allow you to complete the course as well as take the test online. Visit National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) to find out your state’s requirements and approved courses.

Once you research the requirements, you can take and pass the test for your license. You may need to pay a fee. The fee amount depends on what state you live in, but it is usually no more than $50. Once you have your license, it doesn’t matter which state you drive the boat in; just make sure you have your license with you any time you’re out on the water. (Most states will issue a fine if you don’t have the license with you.)

Young Couple Riding on a Boat

Safety Tips During Your Trip

Boating is a great adventure, and if you follow a few simple rules, it can make the trip that much more enjoyable knowing you’re keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. First, check the weather forecast before you head out on your trip. Even a beautiful, sunny morning can quickly turn into a stormy afternoon. Check the marine forecast in your area or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecast.

We know you want to have a great time out on the water, but designate a sober driver before you leave the dock. The combination of the boat’s movement, sun and wind can impair your coordination and concentration, and adding alcohol to the mix can be really dangerous.

Make sure you have a U.S. Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher in an accessible area on the boat (and know how to use it). If a fire does break out, stop the engine immediately, extinguish the fire and have everyone on the boat wear a life jacket in case you need to leave the boat. Speaking of life jackets, have enough life jackets on board for everyone on the boat – It’s the law! – and make sure they fit each person properly.

Along with these tips, don’t forget to pack plenty of sunscreen and water, and make sure you have cell service in case of an emergency. To ensure you follow all the basic boating safety guidelines, we recommend you download the U.S. Coast Guard Foundation’s Boating Safety Guide and Equipment and Departure Checklists.

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