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Boating Safety

Not following the rules of the water can cost you with fines, penalties and can even land you in jail. It might even cost you or someone else their life. Boating enforcement officers like those from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission are not out trying to ruin you day of fun. They're trying keep everyone safe. 

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In the video below Master Officer Cody Walker with NCWRC talks about what you need to know while out enjoying the water and what you should do even before getting in your boat. She says it's just as important to have the right knowledge as it is to have the proper equipment. 

You can find out where you can take a free boating safety course at

In 2017, the US Coast Guard responded to over 4,291 boating incidents. These included 658 deaths and 2,629 injuries.  Below, we've assembled several guidelines that can help you gain knowledge on being safe on the lake.


Life Jackets Are Essential

Life jackets are at the core of safe boating, whether using a motorized or non-motorized vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard reports 76% of boating deaths in 2017 were due to drowning, and 84% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.

While regulations on life jacket use vary from state to state, the Wear It program of the National Safe Boating Council promotes boating safety by encouraging boaters to wear life jackets any time they are on a boat, motorized or non-motorized.

Good swimmers still need life jackets. When people fall off a boat, they may become disoriented, injured or unconscious. Life jackets can keep victims’ heads above water so they can breathe and be rescued more easily. Every child should wear a life jacket at all times when boating.

Choose the right life jacket for the activities you will be doing. Double check to make sure the life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved and fit correctly:

  • Make sure the jacket is a proper fit for your size and weight

  • Make sure the jacket is properly fastened

  • Hold your arms straight up over your head, ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up; make sure there is no excess room above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your chin or face


Get Educated, Reduce Risks

The National Safe Boating Council encourages following these boating safety tips to help minimize risks:


Be Prepared

Before setting out:

  • Check that your equipment is in good working order;
    get a free vessel safety check with your local U.S. Coast Guard
    Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron

  • Review a pre-departure checklist to ensure you have everything you
    need in your boat, including a tool kit and first-aid kit

  • Before you leave, always file a float plan with someone you trust

  • Dress properly and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet

  • Don’t forget the sunscreen and know the signs of heat illnesses

Exercise Good Judgment
  • Respect your limits and keep within your limits to avoid injury

  • Don't drink and drive a boat; alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination

  • Once on the water, use common sense; in a split second, a situation can arise or the weather can turn

  • If you notice storm clouds, a sudden temperature drop or wind speed increasing, play it safe and get off the water


Safety Tips for Water Skiers, Tubers and Wakeboarders

Skiing, tubing and wakeboarding are popular water sports, but they also can be dangerous with participants traveling at high speeds. Remember to take the following steps to minimize the risks:

  • Learn how to get up out of the water and how to safely use the tow rope

  • Always have a spotter in the boat, and go over basic hand signals

  • Make certain the towline is not caught in the propeller or wrapped around you prior to beginning

  • Wait for the propeller to stop before getting back on the boat

  • Enjoy these activities during daylight hours only

Image by Benjamin Klaver
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