Know Your Enemy: Boat Safety and Marine Security Tips

Posted at 4:48 PM, May 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-01 16:48:45-04

Every year, about 700 Americans die in recreational boating accidents. Not surprisingly, a disproportional number of those accidents occur in the summer months, when we’re more likely to be out on the water—and less likely to be thinking about personal safety than about keeping the ice cold and the cooler well-stocked. People suffer from that cabin fever,They’ve been cooped up all winter. The weather is finally getting warmer, the oceans and lakes are open, and they want to get out there and boat as much as they can before the season’s over.” Luckily, better technology (and a hearty dose of common sense) is making it easier than ever to keep yourself safe on the water. Here are the PIX-11 “Know your Enemy” top tips on boater safety.

 1-Stay Afloat:

You’ve heard it before: Life jackets save lives. According to Coast Guard studies, 90 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Of the remaining 10 percent, many were wearing a model that wasn’t designed to keep the head out of the water after the wearer lost consciousness. Legally, having PFDs in the boat is good enough—it’s not mandatory that you wear a life jacket, just that there’s one onboard for each person on a boat. And there are plenty of reasons boaters usually leave the jackets below deck: They can be bulky and uncomfortable and seem unnecessary on warm days.

 2-Stay Alert:

It’s a sad fact that 17 percent of all recreational boating fatalities are the direct result of drunk boating, or BUI (boating under the influence). While attitudes toward land-based drinking and driving have evolved significantly in the past couple of decades, downing a cold one as the wake fans out behind you still feels like a rite of summer. It’s not illegal to drink in boats. The problem is, people often don’t know when to stop. Very rarely is a stone-sober mariner involved in a serious boating accident.

3-Stay in Touch:

Cell phone coverage is often spotty; phones can get wet, and batteries can die. A modern VHF marine radio, on the other hand, is a near guarantee that you’ll be able to communicate with rescuers and guide them to your exact location in the event of an accident. (A good marine radio runs about $100, provides frequent weather updates and can be connected to your boat’s GPS for even greater geographic accuracy.) All marine radios sold after June 1999 have a built-in feature called DSC, or digital selective calling, a button that sends an automatic mayday call with your vessel’s name and location. The trick is that your radio must be properly registered, a step that many mariners neglect.

4-Stay Informed:

In most parts of the country, the are no licensing requirements for boat operators. But you can still hone your skills by taking a safe-boating course. (A class is also an excellent idea for young drivers; in most states kids as young as 12 are permitted to operate small motorboats.) Go to to find classes near you. The best reason: Of those 700 annual fatalities, just 10 percent are in the boat with a driver who has had any sort of formal safety training. And when you know how to safely operate a boat, you can take the wheel if you ever find yourself in a vessel with a driver who’s had one—or 10—too many.

 Marine Security

Keep marine theft at bay by discouraging waterway pirates. The following tips

can help guard your boat and gear from theft.


Strength and durability are keys to security.

Install inside hinges and deadbolt locks on all doors.

Secure ports and windows with inside auxiliary locks.

Attach inverted strong hasps and padlocks to all hatches.

Operation I.D.

Inscribe all valuables (including electronic equipment, your engine, sails, radios, binoculars, and other loose gear) with your name, your home port, your  drivers license number  and your hull identification number.

keep an inventory list (ashore) of all your gear. Include name, model, serial number, manufacturer and description.


Consider installing an alarm system to ward off would be pirates. There are many do-it yourself models on the market that are easy to install, or have a professional install the device.

REMEMBER- an alarm is only good if you set it every time you leave your boat.

Additional tips

Never leave your keys aboard even in a hidden place. Always moor your boat to something secure with a chain or cable that cannot be lifted over or

torn loose from the piling or mooring.

Run the chain or cable around and under a thwart or around a stanchion.

Use one-way bolts, lock nuts, and backup plates on your eye bolts.

Consider leaving your engine out of commission when you are away for a long period of time  (remove the rotor; install a hidden cut-off switch; drain the fuel; remove a spark plug or the propeller.

Secure outboard motors with special transom bolts or clamping screw locks.

Dock watch

A good neighbor is one of the best crime prevention tools around.

Get to know the people and boat owners where you dock, and look out for one another.

Insist on good lighting at your marina.

Let each other know if anyone will be using your boat when you are not present.

If you spot anything suspicious on any boat, call the local law enforcement agency.

If you are a victim

Call your local law enforcement agency. They can respond quickly and will alert other units  including the Coast Guard as needed.

Give the officer a complete description of what was stolen. (The hull identification number of your boat, year, model,  registration number, etc.)


Law enforcement officials claim that boat owners’ apathy and ignorance of crime prevention techniques are prime causes of increased marine theft. As captain of your craft, take command – secure your boat; mark your gear; take the watch and be on the alert for waterway pirates.