Boating Safety Tips
Oakland County, MichiganSheriffBoating Safety Tips

Boating Safety Tips

​​Oakland County Sheriff's Office

See also: 
Boater Safety Course Schedule
Keys to a Safe Boating Season​ (Podcast)
  • 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.



  • 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 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 flammable 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.


  • 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.

LIGHTS.  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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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