Boating Safety

With so much water at hand — the Atlantic Ocean, the Inter-coastal Waterway, the lakes and rivers and inlets — you may find yourself planning a boat trip as part of your Jersey shore vacation.  Here are some tips to help keep you and your family and friends safe while you’re on the water.

Safe (And Smart) Boating

  • Always wear a life preserver
  • Always have everyone on the boat wear a life preserver
  • Know and obey navigation rules
  • Operate the boat at a safe speed
  • Always stay in control of your craft
  • Respect the rights of other boaters
  • Designate a lookout — one person to watch for commercial crafts
  • Don’t operate a boat if you have been drinking or doing recreational drugs
  • Don’t rely on hearing to tell you another boat is approaching
  • If you are boating at night, watch for the sidelights of commercial vessels — one side is red and one side is green.  If you can see both on the same boat, you are directly in that boat’s path.  (That’s bad.)
  • Anchor the boat in safe places
  • NEVER anchor the boat to Coast Guard navigational buoys
  • Learn the danger whistle — five or more short blasts on the whistle signals danger.  DO NOT approach a commercial boat that is signaling danger.
  • Don’t waterski or jetski around tow boats
  • Stay out of the path of tow boats and other commercial boats
  • Avoid cargo loading docks
  • Avoid security zones
  • Know the weather before you head out
  • Boating in poor weather or poor visibility is NOT a risk worth taking
  • Always secure and lock your boat when not on board
  • Don’t throw trash into the water!
  • It’s never a bad idea to have more than one person know how to pilot the boat and use the marine radio


Things to Know About Commercial Boats

  • Commercial boats operate all day every day.  That means 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, commercial boats are working
  • The speed of a commercial boat can be deceptive.  A towboat, tugboat, or other commercial ship may take as long as 90 seconds to go from full speed to stop.  It’s much safer to just stay out of the way
  • Cargo ships, barges, and other large vessels are very restricted in their ability to stop and turn
  • A large boat pilot’s blind spot can be up to hundreds of feet — especially for boats that are pushing barges
  • Powerful commercial boat engines can create what is called “wheel wash” — a turbulent underwater current that can be felt hundreds of yards away
  • Yellow lights signify a large vessel or barge being towed — steer clear!

Before you leave the docks, make sure your boat has enough life preservers for every person on board.  You also want to check the navigational lights and boat numbers.  The boat should also have a first aid kit and fire extinguisher, a marine radio, anchor, and local water charts.  And though you may never use them, be sure to have visual and sound producing distress signals.