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Many of the world’s most fascinating destinations are based aorund the water. Whether it’s lakes, rivers, or an an amazing coastline with access out to sea, boat trips can be an adventurous way of experiencing life on the water.

If you’re a beginner who has never been on a boat, understanding and prioritizing boat safety is paramount, especially if you’re on a trip with limited crew where you’re responsible for your own safety.

As a novice boaters you may not be familiar with the intricacies of navigating waterways, recognizing potential hazards, or understanding the dynamic nature of weather conditions.

Knowledge of basic safety protocols, such as wearing life jackets, understanding emergency procedures, and having a grasp of navigation rules, significantly reduces the risk of accidents or mishaps. And yes, while you may have experienced crew or captains on board, there are still a number of safety precations for which you need to take personal responsibility.

Boating is fun! And spending a day on the water can be fabulous!

But it’s never fun to risk your safety. So here are some basics for your first trip on the water.

Safety Tips for Your First Beginner Boat Trip

Always Be Prepared with Your Swimsuit

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Wearing a swimsuit while in the water is not merely a fashion statement; it is a fundamental safety measure that goes beyond aesthetics.

One of the primary reasons is buoyancy. Swimsuits are designed with materials that do not absorb excessive water, allowing you to float more easily. This buoyancy is especially crucial for inexperienced swimmers or those caught in unexpected currents, providing added support and preventing potential drowning incidents.

Swimsuits also contribute to enhanced visibility and recognition. In crowded environments like a beach or busy harbor, lifeguards, fellow swimmers, or rescue teams can quickly identify you if you’re in brightly colored swimsuits.

The distinctiveness of swimwear actually can aid in prompt response during emergencies.

Comfort and freedom of movement are additional factors too as unlike your regular clothing, swimsuits minimize drag and allow for unrestricted mobility in the water. This means you can react to changing conditions of the water and actually enjoy yourself.

Do Your Homework

Organizing a boating excursion yourself means monitoring the weather forecast several days in advance, and carrying out your own boat maintenance checks; determining if the battery is sufficiently charged, assessing whether you need to refill or even replace the fuel, ensuring all safety equipment is on board and functioning properly etc. 

But even if you’re booked onto a trip where a professional crew are in charge, you should still do your homework in advance of stepping aborad.

Firstly, familiarize yourself with the specific details. Know the departure and arrival times, as well as the itinerary. Understand the duration of the journey and any planned stops or activities along the way.

Weather conditions play a crucial role in boating safety, so check the weather forecast for the duration of your trip even if you’re not in charge of the boat. Unfavorable weather can impact your plans and safety, so it’s vital to be aware of any potential changes.

Ensure that the boat operator is licensed and experienced. Research the reputation of the charter company or boat owner to guarantee a reliable and safe voyage. Confirm that the vessel complies with safety regulations and carries the necessary safety equipment.

Pack appropriately for the trip, considering the climate, activities planned, and any onshore excursions. Essentials include sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, comfortable clothing, and, if needed, motion sickness medication.

Familiarize yourself with basic boating safety guidelines, including the location of life jackets, emergency exits, and communication devices on the boat. Knowing these details beforehand will contribute to a more secure and stress-free journey.

And inform someone ashore about your itinerary and expected return time. In case of unexpected circumstances, this precaution ensures that someone is aware of your plans and can alert authorities if necessary.

Embrace Water Activities Safely

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There are plenty of activities and experiences you can add onto a boat trip, from water spots like water skiing, wakeboarding, or tubing, or more casual activities like snorkelling and swimming.

Activities like wildlife watching require no experience at all, where-as activities like scuba diving may require proper certifications and prior experience. So it’s important to pick a suitable experience to match your skill level.

The majority of boats are prepared though for things like wakeboarding or anchoring for a swim. Provided you already have life jackets on your wake boat, the only extra items you would need are the tow rope and a wakeboard for the rider to grasp as they’re tugged along the water. 

A decent wakeboard and a tow rope can be bought online for around $300, and you typically get years worth of use out of them. 

Avoid Alcohol on Boat Trips

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While it’s really tempting to enjoy a few drinks while you’re out on the water, especially if you’re on vacation, or joining a booze cruise, we highly recommend you abstain from alcohol on any boat trip. 

Alcohol impairs your ability to recognize potential risks. Even something as simple as swimming post-drinking means your ability to assess the situation’s safety may be compromised.

Being on the water requires sharp focus and quick reflexes, especially when unexpected challenges arise. Consuming alcohol diminishes these crucial skills, increasing the likelihood of accidents and jeopardizing the safety of both passengers and crew.

In addition to personal safety, being on the water already has its own set of challenges, and things like the rocking motion of the boat combined with the effects of alcohol can intensify feelings of nausea and dizziness, contributing to seasickness.

And then there are legal implications; many jurisdictions strictly regulate alcohol consumption while operating a vessel, and violations can result in severe penalties, including fines, license suspension, or even imprisonment.

Ultimately, the importance of not drinking on a boat extends beyond individual choices; it is a collective responsibility for the safety and well-being of everyone aboard. 

You’re now equipped with how to safely plan a fabulous boat trip! Remember these basics when planning out your day on the water.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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