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Knowing How a Boat Handles Can Help Avoid Collisions

May 1, 2012

Spring is in bloom and Memorial Day is just a month away. If you are a boater, odds are you have been watching the weather and waiting for that perfect weekend to take the boat out. This article from the U.S. Coast Guard discusses simple steps that every boater – including experienced boaters – should go over as a matter of routine.

Know Your Boat – Every boat – even boats of the same type, from the same manufacturer – handles differently. Your own boat responds differently from day to day as a result of weather, current, temperature, load, and other factors. The boater who ignores handling characteristics is risking his safety. Coast Guard data show that “collision with another vessel” is the number one type of recreational boating accident; “collision with a fixed object” is second.

A Weighty Issue – As the boat owner or operator, it’s important that you know the total weight of the equipment and persons you bring on board, and make sure that it’s within the limits listed on your boat’s capacity plate (if one is provided). You must take into consideration everything you’ve taken on board, such as fishing gear, a cooler, water (eight pounds per gallon), food, and fuel (six pounds per gallon). Exceeding your boat’s rated capacity is dangerous and can severely affect safe handling.

NOAA News is Good News – Finally, check the weather before you go out – and not just to find out whether or not you’ll need a sweater. Wind and waves, in particular, can drastically change a boat’s handling characteristics. Take a few minutes to listen to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) marine forecast on your VHF radio, even if it’s currently bright and sunny. You’ll be much better off making the conscious decision not to pilot your boat in 30-mile-per-hour winds than accidentally finding out you’re incapable of it. For further information on NOAA, check out

You may be an experienced boater, but even if you were born with tiller in hand, it’s worth taking a little extra time to make sure you’ve mastered the handling of this boat on this day under these conditions. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to “Boat Responsibly!” For more tips on boating safety, visit

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