5 Steps to Boating Safely in Minnesota

Safe boating is in everybody’s best interest. Whether you are an avid boater or just an occasional recreation boat rider, there are various ways to ensure that you and your guests are safe on the waterways in Minnesota. Boat accidents often lead to severe injuries, but here we will discuss five critical safety steps you should follow to stay safe.

Wear Your Life Jackets

Life jackets cannot just be an afterthought when you head out on the water. These devices are legally required, and they can save lives. The following Minnesota life jacket laws apply:

  • Any child under 10 must wear a life jacket on a boat
  • Babies under the age of six months will not fit probably in a life jacket and should not be on a boat
  • All drivers and passengers on a personal watercraft must wear life jackets
  • On canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and other types of water vessels, you must carry one life jacket for each person on board
  • Any boat over 16 feet in length must carry a throwable life preserver

All life jackets should be designed to meet the US Coast Guard approval check before you purchase them.

Stay Sober

You may not realize it, but law enforcement agencies patrol the waterways in Minnesota, and they are on the lookout for boating under the influence (BUI) violations. Yes, you can receive a BUI for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol if your blood alcohol concentration is .08% or higher. Any person who operates a boat in Minnesota should do so while sober. Just like many people take steps to ensure they have a designated driver, there should also be a designated boating operator.

Keep in Contact

Any time you are out on a boat, you should have a way to stay in contact with those onshore. First, make sure that more than one person onshore knows that you are going out on a boat and what your travel plan is. Let them know the general area you will be boating in as well as your departure and arrival times.

If you are able to do so, periodically use your phone or radio to check in with people onshore to let them know you are doing okay.

Watch the Weather

Before any boating excursion, the boat operator should be aware of the current and future predicted weather conditions. If it looks like the weather is going to get rough, you should not take the boat out. If the weather begins to deteriorate while you are on the waterway, you should find somewhere to dock the boat safely until the storm passes. Some of the most devastating boating accidents occur when boat drivers and passengers are unexpectedly caught in bad weather.

Know Boating Safety Practices

No one should take a craft out on the water if they do not understand boating safety practices. The boat driver should know how to safely navigate waters, especially when they are around other boats or water vessels. You should consider taking a boating safety course before you drive a new boat or if you are a newly licensed boater. All boat drivers should understand that:

  • Non-motorized craft have the right of way over motorized craft. However, large commercial vessels and emergency water vessels have the right of way over every other vessel on the water.
  • When you are approaching another vessel, move to the right to avoid a crash.
  • If another boat is passing your boat, maintain your current speed and course. If you are passing another boat, stay as far as possible away from it.

To learn even more about Minnesota boat and water safety, visit the Department of Natural Resources website.