Brush Up On Boat Safety


As the saying goes: If you’re lucky enough to live near the beach, you’re lucky enough. That adage holds true for any of the bodies of water in our beautiful coastal region.

While the opportunities for water-based recreation definitely place us in a fortunate position, don’t count on luck to keep you safe on the water. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) estimates that about 70% of boating accidents result from human error, so knowing and practicing safe boating is paramount to enjoying some of the greatest resources our area has to offer. Even if you’re a veteran boater, here are some simple reminders to make your summer boating season safe.

Wear your life jacket.

North Carolina law requires anyone younger than 13 to wear an appropriate life vest on a recreational vessel that is underway, as must anyone riding a personal watercraft or being towed by one.

So while the law does not require adults to wear life vests, the USCG heartily encourages it, estimating that simple step could have saved the lives of more than 80% of boating fatality victims. Boating accidents often happen very quickly, and boaters rarely have time to reach stowed life jackets.

Don’t drink and drive.

Even without alcohol, the motion, wind, spray, sun and engine noises of the marine environment stress people’s reaction time. When under the influence of alcohol, a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time are even more impaired, making it a factor in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities. Boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious crime, and the penalties may include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and significant jail terms.

It’s worth noting that the law applies to all boats—from large ships to canoes and rowboats.

Practice propeller precautions.

Motorboat propellers are extremely dangerous, and boaters must be especially vigilant to prevent injuries or even fatalities.

If you are driving, you are responsible for the safety of the people in and around the boat. Stay alert and aware of all traffic around you, and ask a passenger to maintain watch of the propeller area when people are in the water.

The USCG also highly recommends using an ignition cutoff switch lanyard attached to the driver’s wrist. If the driver is thrown overboard or is no longer at the boat’s controls, the engine will shut off, causing the propellers to slow and then stop rotating.

Also, NEVER put your boat in reverse to pick up someone who is in the water. Circle back to them, keeping the boat in forward only. 

Get your skills and your boat in ship-shape.

The Cape Fear Sail and Power Squadron is one of many excellent resources for safe boating classes in our area, and many courses are available online.

Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadrons will perform safety checks for personal pleasure craft at no cost, and there are no consequences if your boat does not pass. They will simply make recommendations to help ensure your boat is as safe as possible.

Have a great summer, and stay safe!


Should you need medical attention for an injury or illness that is not life-threatening, Medac provides excellent care at four convenient Wilmington locations. Our Military Cutoff, Porters Neck and Monkey Junction locations are open 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., and the Shipyard Boulevard location is the area’s only urgent care that is open until 11 p.m.