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Most common boating mistakes and how to avoid them

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

When you are out on the water or even near the water, it is best to always be prepared for anything that can happen. There are many accidents that are preventable when you are on the water, some can be done just by giving yourself some extra preparation time.

According to the United States Coast Guard accident statistics, in 2021, there were 4,439 total accidents. In these statistics the top causes for these accidents were: operator inexperience/inattention, excessive speed, and drug/alcohol use. This totals out to be 1,733 accidents, which is about 40% of all accidents and 33% of all deaths.

Simple mistakes like these can easily be prevented if extra care and caution was put into place. Just a few extra minutes of preparation and extra thought can save others from injuries and more importantly, death.

Now that we have gone through some of last year’s statistics, let’s go through some of the most common boating mistakes and how they can all be avoided.


#1: Don’t Drink

This is the number one rule when is comes to operating any kind of vehicle, machinery, you name it. If you are under the influence of anything and are unable to think clearly you should not be operating a vehicle of any type. When boating, you need to make sure you have designated one person as the ‘sober skipper’. This needs to be someone who has experience driving and operating a boat, otherwise the other passengers will not be safe. Even if passengers are not present, you need to be able to be aware of other boaters and land around you. It is always better to stay safe than be sorry.

#2: Lack of Safety Gear

The lack of safety gear on a boat is also a big contributor to injuries and deaths that occur when out on the open water. Many causes of injury and death include drowning. Having safety vests are one of the most important items to have. The captain needs to ensure that there are plenty of vests on board, so everyone aboard has one that fits properly. The next most important item to have is a communication device. Tis is important to make sure you do not get lost, and you are able to find your way back to the dock.

#3: Not Checking the Weather

Another easy way to prevent accidents while boating is always checking the marine forecast before heading out to the boat. If you know its going to rain while you are out, it is better just to way until it is clear and sunny to not risk any type of potential injuries that may ensue. If you are an advanced operator, you may be able to handle the water and weather conditions with no problem at all, but it is better to make sure everyone stays safe instead of taking any sort of unnecessary risks.

#4: Running Out of Fuel

It is recommended to fuel your boat to about 90% of its capacity to allow room for fuel to expand and prevent overflow. This should be done prior to leaving the dock so you don’t need to worry about it as much while you are out on the water. Many things could happen that could leave you stranded in the open waters or leave you drifting out to sea, not knowing where you are.

Running out of fuel is another crucial topic that the captain of the boat needs to be aware of. They need to know how many nautical miles they will be able to travel before they need to fill the tank back up. They need to understand the fuel consumption that their boat will have and about how much time they will have on the water. It is not recommended to carry fuel on the boat due to open fumes, which could then cause a fire or even an explosion. There is no reason to chance any kind of disaster when you can prepare beforehand and purchase fuel from a marina before heading out.

#5: Following Local Boating Laws and Regulations

Before you even think about heading out on the water, you need to be aware of the local boating laws and regulations in your area. I’m sure if you have been on a boat or around a marina you’ve seen a sign: “Slow No Wake”.

Last year, there were 241 accidents, 16 deaths and 186 injuries just due to force of wave/wake. When you see these signs, you need to be going as slow as you can, but still be able to control the boat. Most signs show a speed limit of 5 mph, but these vary per location. Make sure you are always aware of these signs and regulations in your area. You do not want to be the cause of damage to another vessel, cause even injury, or even death.

If you are interested in viewing all of the boating accident statistics from previous years, you can find them at

If you need to contact us, call us: (804) 427-8100 or email:

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