Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on August 20, 2019. In

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Operator Responsibility

It is the skipper’s responsibility to take charge of and to ensure the safety of his crew and his passengers. This means reviewing emergency equipment and procedures. Inform your crew and passengers of the rules of safe boating and try to insure that at least one other person aboard is capable of operating the vessel in the event of an emergency.

You should explain and/or demonstrate the following:

  • Always have one hand for the boat and the other for yourself. Never walk around on a boat without holding on.
  • Enter a small boat by stepping into the center.
  • Hand equipment into the boat, do not try to carry it aboard as you enter.
  • Distribute the load evenly fore and aft and from side to side.
  • Check the boat’s capacity plate.
  • Don’t overload the boat; it will reduce stability and make capsizing more likely.


Every one who uses or enjoys the waterways of our country, whether boating, walking along the shoreline or actually living on the water’s edge, has the same rights to enjoy the tranquillity of the water. Boaters should respect the rights of others who live or play on the shoreline. You should not disturb private property owners by docking on their land. You should be careful of the amount of wake that you are leaving when operating close to shore. You are responsible for any damage you cause with your wake. Control your speed and obey speed limit signs.

Because sound carries farther over water than land, especially at night, you should keep voices, music and other noises to a minimum if anchored near a waterfront property.

Control your waste

Pollution laws prohibit throwing refuse into the water. Carry bags aboard and dispose of waste and garbage properly. If you see floating refuse in the water, take the time to pick it up and dispose of it upon returning to shore. Many bodies of water have no-discharge regulations in effect. Check with state/local authorities regarding specific pollution regulations in effect in the area you plan to boat.

Careless, reckless, or negligent operation

It is also the responsibility of the operator to refrain from careless, reckless, or negligent operations on the water. Failure to operate a boat in a safe manner could endanger life, or property of other persons. Again, be courteous and exercise caution.

The best way to become a safe and diligent boater is to use common sense. If it doesn’t make sense to do something on land it probably doesn’t make sense to do it on the water. Would you ride on the hood of your car or hang out of the window when underway? Of course not, that wouldn’t be safe. So don’t allow passengers to ride or sit on the bow, stern or sides of the boat while underway.

State and local regulations determine how close to shore, a swimming area or other vessels you can operate. You should be aware of, and obey, speed limits and no-wake zones. Check state/local laws for these regulations prior to boating on an unfamiliar body of water.


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