Boating Safety

It’s getting to be that time of year, Oakland County— boating season!

While summer is filled with days out on the lake, let’s not forget the importance of boating safety. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office has several boater safety courses, tips, and a helpful checklist– continue reading to learn how to keep yourself and others safe on the water.

Boater Safety Tips

  • Be weather wise
  • Bring extra gear you may need
  • Tell someone where you’re going, who is with you, and how long you’ll be away
  • Ventilate after fueling
  • Stay dry and warm
  • Anchor from bow, not stern
  • Take a safe boating course
  • Be ready for trouble when a powerboat passes you in a narrow channel
  • When changing seats, stay low and near center line of a small boat
  • Always carry distress signals on board your boat


Boat Safety Checklist

Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs)

  • PFD’s must be readily accessible, correct size, & one per person
  • Children under the age of 6 must wear a Type I or Type II while on the open deck of a vessel
  • Persons operating, riding on, or being towed behind PWC must wear a Type I, II, or III PFD
  • Vessels 16′ or longer in length must have a Type IV throwable PFD in addition to jacket type PFD’s on board
  • Use of Type III inflatable PFD’s is illegal when operating, riding on, or being towed by a PWC
  • Type III inflatable PFD’s are legal on watercraft (other than PWC’s for persons 16 years of age or older

Watercraft Registration

  • Watercraft registration must be current and on board
  • Where required by law, ensure that the operator has State of Michigan Boater Safety Certificate on board
  • Properly display MC numbers and current validation decal, e.g. both sides of the hull, forward half of vessel, above waterline, 3 inch block letters and numbers of contrasting colors to the watercraft’s hull


  • Check for fuel smells
  • Check for bilge for gas or oil. Correct all flammable liquid problems before starting your engine or operating electrical devices
  • Run your ventilation blower before initially starting the engine
  • Before fueling, close all compartments. After fueling is completed, open all compartments to ventilate and run the blower for at least 4 minutes to purge all trapped fumes

Fire Extinguishers 

  • Required when carrying flammable liquids or fuel on board
  • Must be fully charged. Check the gauge or use of small test button to check the pressure
  • Must be a type “B” fire extinguisher (for flammableb liquids)
  • Must be U.S. Coast Guard approved for marine use
  • Vessels less than 26 feet, one size 1 extinguisher is required
  • Vessels 26 feet & less than 40 feet, two size 1 extinguishers, or one size 2 extinguisher are required
  • Vessels 40 feet to less than 65 feet, three size 1 extinguishers, or one size 1 and one size 2 extinguisher are required

Sound Producing Device

  • Horn or portable device, e.g. whistle or air horn capable of producing a 4 second blast that can be heard for at least 1/2 mile


  • Required between the hours of sunset & sunrise
  • Red and green navigation lights
  • White stern and/or anchor light

Visual Distress Signals

  • Required on Federal waters
  • Accessible flares and day signals stored in a dry location

Fuel and Oil

  • Be sure to have enough fuel to provide a reasonable margin for safe return
  • Check the oil to make sure it is at the proper level


  • Safety chains must be used when towing
  • Trailer must be equipped with working brake lights and tail lights
  • Make sure tires are in good condition with proper pressure
  • Maintain wheel bearings
  • Ensure that trailer hitch size matches the towing ball size

Safety Concerns, Tools, and Spare Equipment 

  • Consider carrying “tools” you may need such as a cell phone
  • Spare light bulbs, spare keys, flashlights, etc.
  • Anchor & line
  • Dock lines
  • Boat fenders / bumpers
  • First-Aid kit

Weather and Water Conditions

  • Check the weather forecast and file a float plan with a friend

Child - Water

You can also learn the keys to a safe boating season from Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard with our podcast, which highlights  how to prevent injuries and fatalities while boating.


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