Adapted from Responsible Boating by Tread Lightly!
Being a boater isn’t just about cruising with family and friends, competing in water sports or enjoying the great outdoors. It’s about respecting the environment and others with whom you are sharing the water.
As a responsible boater, you not only care for the environment you also help protect access to recreational boating areas for years to come. Keep the following tips in mind for responsible boating:
Boat only on waterways open to your type of boat. Be sure to have a Coast Guard-approved life vest (PFD) for each passenger on your boat. Operate your boat at a safe speed and have someone on board act as a lookout and watch for other boaters, objects, and swimmers. And of course, don’t mix boating with alcohol or drugs.
When trailering your boat, balance your load, including items stowed inside. Make certain your trailer is in proper working order, its lights work and your boat is secure before you travel.
Respect the Rights of Others
Show the same consideration to others who are on and around the waters that you would like them to show to you. Keep the noise down—especially around shore.
Be courteous to other boaters at boat ramp areas, too. Launch and retrieve your boat as quickly as possible.
Before going out on the water, take a boater education course to learn about boating safety, and be sure you know how to operate your boat, navigation and communication equipment. Know distress signals and warning symbols.
Get charts of your destination to help plan your trip and contact local officials for area restrictions, closures, and permit requirements. Always tell someone about your travel plans and file a float plan.
Check the weather forecast prior to launching and make sure you have enough fuel and oil for the entire trip.
Avoid Sensitive Areas
Always launch at a designated boat ramp. Backing a vehicle on a riverbank or lakeshore can damage the area and leads to erosion. Don’t operate your boat in water less than 2½ feet deep and travel slowly in shallow waters. High speeds near shore create large wakes that erode the shoreline.
Do not disturb historical, archeological, or paleontological sites and avoid seasonal nesting or breeding areas.
Do Your Part
Leave the area better than you found it. That means pack out what you pack in, dispose of fuel, oil and waste properly and carry a trash bag to pick up litter left by others.
When fueling your boat, take care not to spill fuel in the water. To that end, it’s a good idea to carry a spill kit that includes absorbent pads, socks, and booms.
Before and after a trip, wash your gear, watercraft and tow vehicle to reduce the spread of invasive species. Remove all plant material from watercraft, motor, trailer, and other gear and dispose on dry land in garbage container. After your outing, drain livewells, bilge water, and transom wells at the boat launch prior to leaving.
Learn more about how to minimize your impact on the environment and responsible recreation practices at TreadLightly.org