Boating and Water Activities Safety Guide

Picture this: the sun is beating down on you on a hot, sunny day with your favorite cold drink in your hand. Summertime is in full swing and while boating can make some of the best memories, a fun day in the sun can turn sour quickly if you’re not careful. As a boat owner, it’s your responsibility to keep those aboard your vessel safe.

Take some time to brush up on your safety guidelines for boating and water activities so you can set sail safely and enjoy your time on the water. 

  1. Know the Rules About Boat Lighting After Dark 

Every state has different rules when it comes to boat lighting once it gets dark. Once the day turns to night, every boat, big or small, must follow certain lighting rules. These light rules typically are effective from dawn to dusk, and when visibility is limited such as rain or fog. Depending on the length and size of your boat, will determine what type of lights you will need. Light requirements for each type of boat are: 

  • Powerboat: sidelights, a masthead light, and a stern light
  • Sailboat: sidelight and stern light
  • Rowed/Paddle Boats: white light that is displayed to prevent collisions
  1. Know the Signs of Drowning (And How to Help) 

Most of the time when someone thinks about someone drowning, they think of someone dramatically thrashing in the water as a sign that they’re in distress. What actually happens is very quiet and can occur very quickly. Warning signs of someone drowning include: 

  • Someone silent. For example, a hyperventilating child will not be screaming for help. Or someone who no longer has the energy to swim may become very still. 
  • A swimmer whose head is slanted back facing the sky as they gasp for air. 
  • Someone who is moving their arms up and down as they try to bring their body upward to try to find something to grab on to that may or may not be there. 
  • A person who may be holding on to the side of a raft, boat, or someone who is treading water.

To get more in-depth information on recognizing the signs of drowning, click here to read more. 

If you see someone that is drowning before you jump in to help it’s important to assess the situation before you take action. 

  • Call for help or have someone call 911. It’s key to get help on the way and will provide a better outcome for the drowning person. 
  • Look around you! Look for some sort of flotation device or anything that’s meant to help someone who is drowning. 
  • If you decide to swim to them, you need to understand the risks that come with it and must put yourself in a “save yourself” state of mind. It serves you best if you’re a good swimmer or trained in underwater rescue. You also have the option to swim near the person and toss the flotation device to them. A drowning, panicked person can pull you underwater if you’re not careful. 
  • Grab under their arms. If you opt to swim, try and go from behind them and grab underneath their arms and use your legs to kick back to safety. 
  • Provide CPR if needed, you can brush up on all the how-to’s here
  1. Pay Attention to Navigational Hazards

A navigational hazard is something that you could hit while on the water. You will want to be on the lookout for the following:

  • Piers
  • Floating and shoreline docks
  • Swim platforms 
  • Fixed platforms 
  • Boat lifts
  • Mooring buoys
  1. Follow All the Rules of Insurance 

Before handling a boat, you must make sure you are following all of the insurance requirements. Typically, boats are obligated to have their boat insurance, except for some boats. Click here (will insert the Boat insurance guide I wrote to redirect them to another blog from us) to see which types of boats require insurance and which ones that don’t. Insurance demands depend on the state, so click over to the TGS Insurance to get more information on the boat insurance rules in Texas and help on your boat insurance policy! 

  1. Make Sure Everyone is ALWAYS Wearing a Life Jacket.

Some might think they are above wearing a life jacket because they feel as if they have strong enough swimming skills. Not that we don’t think some people can’t swim as well as they claim, it’s better to be safe than sorry and to just wear the life jacket. 

Accidents on the water are unpredictable and no matter how strong a swimmer you are, there could be a time where you find yourself in a very dangerous situation. Federal regulations require all children that are 13 and younger to wear a U.S. Coast Guard certified life jacket at all times while on the boat. Every boat owner is always required to have a U.S. Coast Guard life jacket for every person on board. 

  1. Don’t Go On a Boat Alone.

While it might seem like a great escape from reality to take a boat ride by yourself, it actually can be quite dangerous. One of the biggest rules of boat safety is to never go out on the water by yourself. Regardless of the type of boat, you are taking for a cruise, it is always safer to have a buddy to help in the event you get hurt or in an accident. If you decide to take the risk of going out on the water solely by yourself, the least you can do is let someone know where you are going and when they should expect you to come back.

  1. Know the Warning Signals For Water Skiing and Tubing

Water skiing and tubing are enjoyable water activities, but it is important to establish your own set of hand signals to communicate to the tuber or the individual water skiing. They are in open waters and cannot verbally speak to you from the noise of the boat. They’re in open water and cannot communicate to you so you must have hand signals that will help communicate phrases like, “slow down” or “I want back on the boat” or “I’m done.” 

Make sure everyone on the boat understands these signals, so if you’re driving the boat, and not looking at the tuber or skier, someone else can communicate to you if needed. 

  1. Pay Attention to the Weather Before Going Out on the Water

In Texas, everyone knows that the weather is quite unpredictable and a beautiful sunny day can turn into a violent thunderstorm in a matter of minutes. Make sure you check the forecast before planning a day on the boat and check in periodically as the day progresses. The last place you’d want to be in a thunderstorm is in open water. The waves can become very choppy and visibility incredibly low. If you see dark grey clouds headed your way, it’s a smart move to get somewhere safe. 

  1. Assign a “Spotter” 

A “spotter” is the designated person on the boat who looks out for swimmers in the water, jet skiers, kayakers, etc. While you might get caught up in the social aspect of boating or paying attention to something else, it is important to have a “spotter” to avoid colliding into another boat, individual, or other peril. 

  1. Stay Up-To-Date on Water Safety Courses 

Every year or two get the family together to take online water safety courses to make sure everyone stays fresh on all the rules. These courses will help keep your pencil sharp and keep you safe during boating emergencies. Here’s a great online water safety course for those who live in Texas. 

While some of the guidelines may seem a little overzealous, they’re very important rules that you as the captain or member on board a boat, need to remember. Being knowledgeable about water safety rules is crucial and potentially life-saving to have a safe and enjoyable boating experience. If you have any questions regarding your Texas boating insurance policy or want more information, contact our agents at TGS Insurance for all of your boat insurance needs. Stay safe out there and happy boating! 


About Marissa Cunningham

Marissa has been a content writer for TGS Insurance for over a year and has a genuine passion for writing. She strives to provide engaging and informative content that covers the ins and outs of the insurance industry. In her spare time, Marissa enjoys listening to music, cooking, and traveling.