The boat operator has primary responsibility for the safety of all persons aboard. He should also have a constant awareness of weather, water and other environmental conditions and to ensure the safety of his crew and his passengers. Remember that the cause of most fatal boating accidents involves boat operator error.

Prior to departure, you should review emergency equipment and procedures including:

  • Loading and movement of passengers and gear.
  • Courtesy.
  • Importance of maintaining a proper lookout.
  • Obeying no-wake or limited-wake zones (wake is defined as the waves left behind as your boat moves through the water).
  • Controlling your waste.
  • Controlling boat noise.
  • Controlling boat speed.
  • Refraining from careless, reckless, or negligent operations.
  • Alcohol and controlled substances.
  • Observing and operating in accordance with homeland security measures.

Inform your crew and passengers of the rules of safe boating and try to insure that at least one other person aboard is capable of operating the vessel in the event of an emergency.

You should explain and/or demonstrate the following during loading of passengers and gear:

  • Always have one hand for the boat and the other for yourself. Never walk around on a boat without holding on.
  • Enter a small boat by stepping into the center.
  • Hand equipment into the boat, do not try to carry it aboard as you enter.
  • Distribute the load evenly fore and aft and from side to side.
  • Keep the weight of everything (passengers and equipment) as low in the boat as possible.
  • Check the boat's capacity plate.
  • Don’t overload the boat; it will reduce stability and make capsizing more likely.

As a recreational boater you should advise your crew and passengers that everyone is responsible for assisting in those duties at all times. Although it is the skipper's responsibility, they should also be aware of and be looking out for changes in weather, other boats in the vicinity, dangerous and/or changing water conditions and the continued stability of the boat.