At Northern Lights we know there is nothing better than spending summer days and nights boating! Here are a few safe boating tips from the North American Safe Boating Campaign to remember when you are out on the water.

For more information and resources visit

1. Wear a life jacket.
No matter what activity you have planned – boating, fishing, paddling, PWC – always remember to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water. Accidents on the water can happen much too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket.

2. Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved, appropriate for your water activity and fits properly.
A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems. All persons should always wear a life jacket.

3. Know state boating laws.
Rules and laws can differ from state to state and violations can result in ticketing, fines or jail time. Know local boating laws before you get out on the water.

4. Take a boating safety course.
Learn valuable tips that can help save your life in unexpected situations by taking a NASBLA (National Association of Boating Law Administrators) approved boating safety course. Many courses are online, and will save you money on your boat insurance.

5. Make sure your boat is prepared.
There are many items that need to be checked and re-checked on any boat. Schedule a Vessel Safety Check with your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons before you hit the water. Every Vessel Safety Check is conducted 100% free of charge.

6. Be sure to know your boat’s capacity.
If you have more on your boat than it was designed to handle, the boat may become unstable and capsize.

7. Check the weather, including the water temperature.
Know the latest marine weather forecast prior to going out, and keep a regular check for changing conditions.

8. Dress properly.
Always dress for the weather, wearing layers if cooler weather, and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet. Wear waterproof clothing, especially in colder weather as cotton fabrics absorb moisture and will quickly decrease your body temperature.

9. Always file a float plan.
File a float plan with someone you trust that includes details about the trip, boat, persons, towing or trailer vehicle, communication equipment, and emergency contacts. Find out more at

10. Always follow navigation rules.
Know the ‘Rules of the Road’ such as operator’s responsibility, maintaining a proper lookout, safe speed, crossing, meeting head-on and overtaking situations. Know what’s going on around you at all times, and always travel at safe speeds for the environment. Find out more at

11. Don’t drink while you boat.
Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 15% of deaths in 2016. Boating can magnify the side effects of alcohol use: impaired judgment and poor coordination. Find out more at

12. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Gasoline-powered engines on boats, including onboard generators, produce carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless and odorless gas that can poison or kill someone who breathes too much of it. Be sure to install and maintain a working CO detector, never block exhaust outlets, and always dock, beach or anchor at least 20 feet away from the nearest boat that is running a generator or engine.

13. Keep in touch.
Communication devices can be the most important piece of emergency equipment on board a vessel, especially in case of emergency. Cell phones, satellite phones, emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB), VHF radios and personal locator beacons (PLB) can all contribute in an emergency situation.



Cold-water immersion is the cause of many boating-related fatalities. The danger increases as water temperature decreases below normal body temperature (98.6 degrees F). For more information on boating in cold water, visit


  • Do make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket. Even experienced swimmers will experience shock within one minute in the frigid water and lose muscle control within 10 minutes.
  • Do file a float plan with someone you trust that includes details about the trip, boat, persons, towing or trailer vehicle, communication equipment, and emergency contacts. Download a free float plan template at org.
  • Do dress properly for the weather, always wearing layers, and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet. Remember, dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.
  • Do use your navigation lights to alert other boaters to your presence in dark and/or foggy conditions. Recreational boats operating at night are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise.
  • Do catch your breath. A sudden unexpected fall into cold water causes an involuntary gasp (or torso) reflex. It takes less than ½ cup of water in your lungs to drown. If you remain calm, you have a greater chance of self-rescue.
  • Don’t panic if you fall into the water. Stay afloat with the help of your life jacket, regain control of your breathing, and keep your head above water in vision of rescuers.
  • Don’t keep on heavy boots if you’re in the water. Look for ways to increase your buoyancy. If you’re in the water with others, huddle together with everyone facing inwards to help everyone stay afloat and keep warm.
  • Don’t apply heat to extremities like arms and legs of a rescued victim. This sudden change in temperature could cause cardiac arrest.



  • Cold shock. You have one minute to adjust to the cold shock response – don’t panic.
  • Swimming failure. You have 10-minutes of meaningful movement to get help and get out of the water.
  • You have about one hour before you become unconscious from hypothermia.
  • Post-rescue collapse. You “give up” and collapse after or right at the time of rescue.
© Northern Lights, Inc. 2018