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  • Writer's picturepaige6768

Safety Tips While on the Water



The safety and well-being of everyone on board should be a top priority for any boater. More than just preventing harm or accidents, it helps to make your boating trip all the more enjoyable when you take everyone’s safety into consideration. So here are some important safety tips to always keep in mind whenever you set out on the water!


Fueling Up Tips

  • Fill your tank slowly: You don’t want any oil or fuel spilling into the water or your bilge, especially if you overfill your tank. It’s a safety hazard not just for you, but for the environment as well.

  • Don’t fill it to the brim: More fuel might be good, but you don’t want to risk overspilling. You also want to leave room for the fuel to expand.

  • Use oil-absorbent pads to catch drips: Use an oil-absorbent cloth or pad to prevent any excess oil from dripping down while refueling.

  • Clean up and dispose of your waste properly: If you notice any spills or stray drops of oil, be sure to wipe those up if possible and dispose of used cloths, pads, paper towels, and rags in the proper waste receptacles.

  • Check for damage: Before refueling, check all your fuel lines, vents, hoses, and your tank for cracks, corrosion, rust, tears, and loose connections.

  • Clear the area: As much as possible, keep people who aren’t directly involved with the refueling away from the general area.

  • Turn off anything that could cause a spark: This includes the engine itself, onboard electronics, lights, and especially open flames, like stoves and lit matches.

  • Don’t smoke: Discourage any smoking near or on the boat when refueling.

  • Close all windows, doors, and other openings: This is to prevent any fumes from making their way inside or getting trapped inside afterward.

If you’re looking for a safe and reliable place to fuel up while you’re cruising the Washington Channel or the Potomac, The Wharf Marina has an excellent fuel dock that’s got everything you need to fuel up safely and efficiently, so you can sit back and relax without having to worry about a thing!


Equipment Must-Haves on Board

No matter how far you’re going or how long you’re planning to be out on the water, it always pays to have the proper safety equipment on board. Check if you’re boat has any or all of the following essentials on board:

  • Flares or other visual distress signals

  • VHF radio

  • Life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs)

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Lifebuoy

  • Water bailer or hand pump

  • A sound-signaling device, like a whistle

  • Flashlight with extra or rechargeable batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Extra dock lines

  • Anchor

  • Navigation lights

  • Tool kit

  • Oars or paddles

  • Inflatable life raft

Of course, make sure that most if not all equipment, especially water-sensitive ones, is waterproof or is stored in waterproof bags and containers.

Fire Protection

Though it might seem unlikely at first, (after all, you are surrounded by tons of water,) fires can happen on your boat just as easily as they can happen on land if you’re not being careful.

Fires on boats can happen as a result of gasoline or fuel leaks from your engine. Even gasoline fumes or gas can result in a fire when enough heat is present. Leaked fuel and exposure to sparks from your ignition or a lit match or cigarette are the most likely causes of fires on boats. Other than that, combustible materials on board, such as wood, paper, cloth, or plastic, and even electronics and appliances may catch on fire if you’re not being careful.

What to do in case of a fire

  • Stay calm: Before anything else, make sure that you and everyone else on board stay calm and collected. As much as possible, don’t panic.

  • Turn the boat off: Shut the engine down immediately and turn off the valve to your fuel supply.

  • Keep the fire contained: If the fire hasn’t spread to other parts of the boat yet, try to keep it in one area and prevent it from spreading. Maintain a safe distance between you, your passengers, and the fire.

  • Shut off the fire’s oxygen supply: If the fire is below deck, you can let it burn itself out by shutting off its oxygen supply. You can do this by closing all hatches, ports, doors, and windows that could be letting air in.

  • Move your boat to keep smoke away: If the fire is above deck, you can turn your boat so the wind doesn’t blow any smoke or sparks toward you and your passengers. This could also slow down the spread of the fire.

  • Keep fuel and gasoline away from the fire: This should go without saying, but move your gasoline or fuel supply out of reach of the fire to keep it from spreading or getting worse.

  • Make sure everyone is prepared: Equip the proper lifejackets and flotation devices and prepare the necessary distress signals, supplies, and life rafts just in case things get out of hand and you’d need to abandon ship.

  • Use a fire extinguisher: In the case of a combustible fire (a fire caused by combustible materials such as plastic, wood, paper, etc.) and a gas or electrical fire, a fire extinguisher should be able to put it out. Be sure to spray the flames at their base and use a wide, sweeping motion to get them all out. In the case of a small fire, you can also throw a heavy blanket over it to smother it.

  • Never use water on an electrical or fuel-based fire: Using water to extinguish an electrical fire could electrocute you, while a fuel-based fire could spread and splash back and burn you.

How to prevent fires on your boat

  • Check your fire extinguishers: As part of your regular maintenance, make sure to check if you have enough fire extinguishers on board and if they’re still functional. Replace them if they’re “expired”. They should be kept in easily accessible and visible areas of your boat.

  • Install fire alarms or a fire suppressant system: If your boat is large enough to handle it, you could install a fire suppressant system on board to take care of any fires so you don’t have to. Fire alarms or smoke detectors are also a must regardless of the size of your vessel.

  • Keep gas valves turned off when not in use: Leaked gas is one of the most common causes of a fire.

  • Don’t smoke below decks: If you must, it’s best to smoke above deck. Once done, put out your lit cigarette and dispose of it properly.

  • Pump and maintain your bilge: Leaked gas can build up in your bilge. Pump your bilge regularly and open the hatch every once in a while to let fresh air in.

  • Check gas fittings and tubings for leaks: The best way to prevent gas from building up is to prevent gas leaks in the first place. Regularly checking your gas fittings, tubings, and fuel lines for wear and tear could go a long way in preventing a fire. This includes electronic wiring.

  • Store all flammable liquids, fuel, and gas properly: Keep them in tightly sealed upright containers and away from sources of heat or ignition.

  • Never leave your stove or an open flame unattended: Self-explanatory. Always remember to turn off the stove or put out the flame when you’re done.

  • Keep combustible materials away from open flame or sources of heat: Also pretty self-explanatory. Store your clothes, paper, and plastics in the proper storage containers away from any open flame, stoves, ovens, and other sources of ignition.

  • Ventilate: Keep all areas of your boat properly ventilated, especially the bilge and battery compartments.

  • Be vigilant: Always keep an eye out for any potential dangers. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun — just be safe and sensible about it.


Safety is its own reward and responsibility that everyone on board should take seriously. Stay ready and prepared with these handy tips and tricks the next time you’re out on the water!


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