Five Fall Boating Safety Tips

The fall season is already upon us, but that doesn’t mean boating has to come to an end just yet. In fact, some of the best leaf peeping and duck hunting can only be done from the water. Here are a few safety tips for boating on these shorter, cooler autumn days.

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  1. Update your charts

Helpful landmarks you’ve relied on all summer to point out shallow sections may look different as the leaves change color and fall. You also may find yourself cruising home in the dark more often, when those landmarks will be harder to spot. Aids to navigation such as channel markers and buoys placed by local authorities may be pulled as early as October in some areas. Make sure that your charts – electronic and physical – are up to date and use them to navigate instead.

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  1. Check your lights and flares

Check to see that your boat’s navigation lights are in working order and your emergency flares are not past their expiration date. Carry a couple of waterproof flashlights to help you unload passengers and their gear at the dock or boat ramp after dark, and be sure to stock spare batteries. A flashlight also can be used in an emergency to signal for help.

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  1. Carry a VHF radio

During the fall boating months, the waterways are less crowded. While this can be peaceful, it also means that if you run into a problem, you might not see another boater for hours, if at all. A VHF radio can be used to call for help even in spots where your cell phone has no signal. Use Sea Tow’s free Automated Radio Check (ARC) system to ensure your VHF is working properly. To find the ARC channel in your area, visit .

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  1. Dress in layers

As the days get shorter, there can be rapid changes in both air and water temperature from day to evening. Dress in layers that can be easily removed or added when the air warms up or grows chilly. And, make sure that your life jacket can fit over your layers.

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  1. Wear a life jacket

In the fall, water temperatures can grow much colder than the air. Boaters who accidentally fall overboard run an increased risk of hypothermia. While children under 13 must wear a life jacket when the boat is underway by law, it’s a good idea for adults to wear them, too and there are 6 states with cold water life jacket wear requirements now. Check with your state boating agency to see if you need to buckle up before boating. You may even want to purchase life jackets with lights attached so rescuers can find you in the water.

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A fall view captured by Tina Granitsas‎.

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