Boat ownership offers many benefits, including the ability to invite friends and relatives aboard for a day or more of fun on the water. Being a host comes with many responsibilities. You are responsible for keeping everyone safe, no matter how short the trip is.

These are the top ways, according to boating safety experts, charter captains, liveaboards, and boating captains.

Boat guest safety checklist

  1. Make a plan.
  2. View weather conditions.
  3. Brief your visitors.
  4. Ask your passengers.
  5. Give them a grand tour.
  6. Play safety “show-and-tell.”
  7. Shared “house” rules.
  8. Remember everyone “Who’s boss”.

Tip #1: Be prepared.

Your guests should be able to enjoy a safe and enjoyable boating trip before you do. Kim Brown, author of Checklists For Sailors – Passage Planning Sailboat Maintenance Cleaning and Medical, suggests that you create a pre-departure checklist to ensure that your boat is in good condition. You will need to check fuel and oil levels, test electronics, and inspect bilges for any leaks. If you are traveling at night, make sure that all lights work and that you have enough emergency signaling devices (flares, flashlights, strobes, etc.). You should also have a list of emergency signaling devices (flares, flashlights, etc.) onboard.

Your first aid kit and ditch bag must be fully stocked. Drink plenty of water, juices, and soft drinks. Sunburn prevention is possible by packing extra sunscreen and drinking lots of water. You can also add seasick medicines to your supplies list in case your guests feel queasy.

Finalize a float plan. Leave it with someone you trust and know so they know where you are going, who’s onboard, and when you will be back.

Tip #2: Pay attention to the weather conditions.

Before you sail, make sure to check the NWS marine forecast for the area you are departing from as well as your destination. Captain Jordan Messick, who runs Tall Tail Charters from Wilmington, North Carolina, warns that you should not hesitate to cancel your plans or postpone them in inclement weather. We offer refunds and rescheduling if the weather or sea conditions are unsafe. When out on the water, it’s safer to be safe than sorry. Keep your VHF radio on. Even on the perfect days, Mother Nature can surprise us with unexpected storms. This way, you’ll be able to get alerts.

Tip #3: Be brief with your guests

It is different from having guests on a boat than guests in your home. You need to prepare them. Let them know where they will be going and how long they’ll stay there. Also, tell them what to expect. Erin Carey, Sailing To Roam, says that guests are always sent an email detailing safety procedures. She encourages them to review these before they travel. The email includes information about what guests should bring and what they should wear, as well as the rules regarding what they should not wear while onboard. It also explains the importance of sun protection.

Make sure to give your guests plenty of sunscreens. Also, make sure they have spare clothing in case they get wet, rain gear, and an insulated jacket. Winds on the water can cause chills even on sunny days.

Proper footwear is an absolute must. While many cruisers walk barefoot on the water, it is a good idea to wear non-skid footwear on deck. This policy is especially beneficial to guests who have not had much experience on the water since it reduces the likelihood of injuries onboard,” Susanna Botkin writes in Southern Boating. According to the USCG Statistic Report on bodily injury incidents, slippage and fall are the most common causes of death.

Encourage your guests to have a meal before they come aboard. Nick Fabbri, Terysa Vanderloo, and Terysa Vanderloo are video bloggers for Sailing Yacht Ruby Rose. To avoid seasickness, you can advise your guests to eat a solid, stodgy meal (such as oatmeal, bagels, or pancakes). Before boarding, make sure your guests eat a healthy meal and drink lots of water throughout the day. They add that they make sandwiches before departing and have easy-to-eat snacks like crisps, granola bars, and apples.

Tip #4: Quiz your passengers.

To get emergency contact information for your guests, you should touch base with them a few days in advance. Brown advises that you also ask guests about their medical history, including any health problems or physical limitations. Brown advises that guests should bring along any medication they may need and extra pills if they are diabetic, epileptic, or asthmatic. “The Boat Galley said, “Ask about food preference, food allergies, and dietary restrictions.” This will help you avoid potential safety issues and ensure that your menus are planned accordingly.

Captain Kelly Gordon, Beaufort-based Everest Yacht Charters, adds, “Ask your guests if you have any boating experience. Can they swim? Are they prone to getting seasick?

Tip #5 – Give them the grand tour.

Captain Gordon says, “Once you have landed, show your guests where their personal flotation devices are and how they should be worn.” Before you take off, ensure that your PFD is properly fitted. Children under 12 years old, as well as non-swimmers, should always wear their PFDs. Continue the familiarization tour by showing where the first aid kit, fire extinguishers, and ditch bags are stored.

Tip #6 – Play safety and “show and tell”.

About 36% of all boating deaths are caused by people falling onboard. To ensure that you are able to rescue your boat quickly, safely, and calmly, it will be necessary for all aboard to assist. You can explain to your guests the Man Overboard (MOB) procedure and have them practice it. Sometimes it is as easy as everyone practicing shouting “Man Overboard” loudly. Knowing where to find (and how to throw) a lifeline can help you all. “Onboard Shawnigan, everyone learns how to use GPS’s MOB button,” Josie Lauducci reports. Josie has been cruising around the globe with her husband and three kids since August 2015.

Safety demonstrations of all toys and tenders are given. Also, instructions on how to balance once you’re underway are provided. Carey explains that guests are taught how to get on and off the dinghy and what to hold onto when they reach the cockpit. She also teaches them how to use two hands to climb down the companionway steps.

Tip #7 – Share the “house” rules.

All guests should be taught to maintain contact with the boat’s surface at all times. Wally Moran, a former charter captain, is now the host of Facebook’s Cruising and Sailing group and coordinator of the an Sail to the Sun ICW Rally.

Your policy on alcohol is a key factor in boating fatalities. Some skippers allow guests to drink but limit it to ensure safety. Others, such as Moran, had a different rule: “No alcohol consumption by any guest on the boat until we anchor for the night.”

Tip #8 – Remind everyone who is boss.

It is important for guests to understand that you are responsible and accountable for their safety. You must be focused at all times, even in adverse weather. According to U.S. Coast Guard’s most recent recreational boating statistics, operator distraction ranks as the leading cause of all boating-related deaths, injuries, and accidents.

Especially in emergency situations, it is important to let your guests know that you will say whatever you want. Moran says, “I would tell guests that there was only one person responsible for everything on board. That was me.” Moran said, “If I said, sit down, do not move, that was what I meant, and there was no doubt about that.” Although I didn’t mean to, I explained that if I needed to act quickly in an emergency situation, I would ask people to get out of my way and listen to what I had to say. They could also do whatever I asked. This was the only way I could ensure the safety of everyone on board.

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