Admiring the lake or river from the shore is an entirely different experience than floating in its center, and a boat is the best way to explore and find a little space of your own. Try a human-powered watercraft like a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board. Or pick up speed with an engine-powered vessel like a houseboat, jetski, or pontoon boat.
Regardless of what you choose, avoid accidents and enjoy your time on the water by following these precautions from boating safety experts.
Know the laws and take an online or in-person course.
Every state’s boating laws differ, including the rules about life jackets, certification, insurance, and safety equipment onboard. States also classify vessels differently, so the requirements for a paddle boarder might be different from a ski boat operator. Whether or not certification is required in your state, it’s a good idea to take a course before heading out on the water.
“In many states, folks can buy a vessel and operate it,” says Scott Croft, vice president of Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS). “That’s not the best practice.”
Regardless of if you’re renting or operating your own vehicle, obtain certification through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Sailing, American Canoe Association, or online through a number of providers. BoatUS Foundation offers a free online certification course that’s good for a lifetime, though it’s always smart to brush up on your knowledge.
Here are a few tidbits of information you’ll likely learn in a course:
- Laws specific to your state;
- How to operate a boat, such as the basics of driving and docking;
- The different components of a boat;
- Meanings of different buoys, signs, and signals;
- What to do in an emergency, such as an engine fire, leak, capsize, or injury.