Boating Safety – 6 Tips to Make Sure You are Water-Ready

It’s that time of year, getting back out on the water, soaking up the sun, riding the waves, escaping from the day-to-day routine, and spending time with family. Even though you’re excited to get back out on the water, make sure you don’t overlook safety. Proper boating safety practices should be part of your boating plans this summer. Here is a quick check list of Missouri boating safety tips and requirements you may find helpful before hitting the water.

1. Take inventory of life jackets.

To keep everyone aboard safe and to comply with Missouri Boating Laws, there should be at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, also known as personal flotation device (PFD), on board and accessible for each occupant of the boat. Make sure there is a life jacket that properly fits each member on board. Fit is determined by weight and chest size and is located on the inside of the life jacket. If you are boating with children under the age of seven, they are required to wear a life jacket anytime they are on a boat unless they are in the cabin area. PFDs should not be stowed in plastic bags or in locked or closed compartments. They should not have other gear stowed on top of them. They need to be easily accessible at all times.

2. Locate your throw cushions.Boating Safety – 6 Tips to Make Sure You are Water-Ready

Before departing from the dock, make sure your boat has at least one throw cushion on board. If your boat is over 16 feet in length, Missouri law requires a throw cushion must be available and accessible by all members of the boat. A life ring is also an option to keep on board. Having a throw cushion or a life ring on your boat will ensure you are complying with the boating safety requirements.

3. Check your fire extinguishers.

Fire extinguishers are classified by a letter and numeral. The letter indicates the type of fire it will extinguish. The number indicates the size of the extinguisher. Type B fire extinguishers are required on boats. They are made to extinguish fires from flammable liquids like gasoline or oil.

All boats are required to have a Type B, U.S. Coast Guard–approved fire extinguisher on board if there is a closed storage area that contains flammable or combustible materials, permanently installed fuel tank, flammable or toxic fluids on board, or closed living spaces.

Depending on the size of your boat, you will need one or more Type B fire extinguishers to comply with Missouri laws and to keep you safe. See the sizing chart below to see what the requirement is for your boat length.

Length of Boat Without Fixed System With Fixed System*
Less than 26 feet one B-I None
26 feet to less
than 40 feet
two B-I or one B-II one B-I
40 feet to less
than 65 feet
three B-I or one B-II and one B-I two B-I or one B-II

* refers to a permanently installed fire extinguisher system

 4. Create and share a float plan.

One important boating safety tip to remember is to share your float plan with a reliable person that will not be attending. Your float plan should include details of your boat, your planned route and any stops you plan to make while on the water, departure and estimated return times, who will be on the boat, and emergency contacts. When you return from your trip, be sure to contact the person from your float plan and let them know you’ve returned safely.

Boating Safety – A Boat on the Docks

5. Prepare your passengers.

Make sure each passenger is familiar with your float plan, understands safety procedures and rules for the boat, and has a properly-fitting life jacket. There should also be a seat for every person on board. Do not exceed the maximum passenger capacity for your boat.

Your boat should be equipped with emergency equipment. For best boating safety practices, make sure all passengers are familiar with the location and operation of the boat’s visual distress signals and sound-producing device.

Visual Distress Signals (VDSs) allow boat operators to signal for help in the event of an emergency. VDSs are only required on federally controlled waters but are good to have on board regardless of where you are boating. Sound-producing devices, however, are required in Missouri for boats and pontoons more than 16 feet but less than 40 feet in length. These boats are required to carry a whistle or horn to make an efficient sound to signal intentions or positions. Boats that are 40 feet or more in length are required to carry a whistle/horn and a bell on board.

6. Have a back-up.

To meet boating safety and Missouri Boating Law requirements, every person born after January 1, 1984 who operates a boat, pontoon, or jet ski (personal water craft) should possess and carry, a boating safety identification card issued by the water patrol division.

Having a secondary passenger that meets these requirements, allows for a back-up operator in the event the primary boat operator is hurt or injured. Before getting on the water, familiarize the secondary operator with the boat, float plan, and emergency procedures. Having a secondary operator is a good idea, but is not required.

Before you hit the water in your boat or pontoon, check boating safety off your to-do list. No matter how much experience you have, it’s always a good idea to review boating safety. At Jones Bros Marine, we have a knowledgeable and experienced team and a large selection of boating accessories and supplies to get you up-to-date, so you can have a fun and safe experience at the lake.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about our boats, products and services, give us a call at 660-747-0388.