Keep the fun on the water coming — whether it’s a fishing boat, a canoe, or a personal watercraft that “floats your boat.”
Operator inexperience, inattention, recklessness, and speeding are the four leading causes of tragic watercraft crashes and the leading cause of death is drowning.
Crash statistics indicate boaters who wear life jackets and take boater safety courses are most likely to stay safe on Missouri waters.
Follow these basic safety tips and enjoy Missouri’s lakes and rivers with family and friends.
Leave alcohol onshore.
Never use drugs or alcohol before or during boat operation. Alcohol’s effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise and vibration.
Use and maintain the right safety equipment.
Have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard and one approved throwable device for any boat 16 feet and longer. The DNR recommends that everyone wear their lifejackets while on the water.
Have a fire extinguisher.
Have operable boat lights. Always test boat lights before the boat leaves the dock and carry extra batteries.
Keep emergency supplies on board in a floating pouch: cell phone, maps, flares, and a first aid kit.
Learn about some key equipment to keep you safe.
Regardless of the season, keep a close eye on the weather and bring a radio. Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing. If bad weather is approaching, get off the water early to avoid a long waiting line in inclement weather.
Take these steps before getting underway.
Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
Open all hatches and run the blower after you refuel and before getting underway. Sniff for fumes before starting the engine and if you smell fumes, do not start the engine.
Check the boat landing for any local regulations that apply. If boating on the Great Lakes or Mississippi River, review the federal regulations for additional requirements.
Loading and unloading your boat.
Overloading a boat with gear or passengers will make the boat unstable and increase the risk of capsizing or swamping. Abide by the boat’s capacity plate, which is located near the boat operators’ position.
Follow navigation and other rules on the water.
Never allow passengers to ride on gunwales or seatbacks or outside of protective railings, including the front of a pontoon boat. A sudden turn, stop or start could cause a fall overboard.
After leaving the boat launch, maintain slow-no-wake speed for a safe and legal distance from the launch. Follow all boat traffic rules.
Take special cold-water precautions in spring.
Cold water temperatures reduce your margin for error on the water: if you fall in or your boat capsizes, you may have as little as two minutes before losing your ability to move your muscles and get back in the boat or seek help.
(Editor’s note: Information provided by the Department of Natural Resources.)