Boat Captain Duties: How to Be a Responsible Boat Captain

Being a boat captain comes with significant responsibility; you're not only responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone on board but also for the condition of the vessel itself. 

That's why boat captains must know safety best practices to keep themselves, their passengers, and their vessels safe. 

In this post, we'll highlight some of the most important boat captain duties that must be fulfilled to ensure a safe and enjoyable voyage.

10 Boat Captain's Duties to Prepare for Before a Boat Trip

1. Take a Boating Safety Course

Before taking on the captain role, you must educate yourself on boating rules and regulations. 

Taking a boating safety course is one of the most critical boat captain responsibilities that will help you learn about navigation, emergency preparedness, and more.

This not only helps to keep you and your passengers safe, but it also ensures that you're operating your vessel within legal boundaries. 

Learn More About Boating Safety Courses

2. Never Drink and Drive a Boat 

Just like driving a car, operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not only illegal but extremely dangerous. Always stay sober at the helm, and consider appointing a sober skipper to assist you as well.

Read Next: Celebrate Safely On a Boat

3. Check Weather Conditions 

Weather conditions can change rapidly on the water, so check the forecast before embarking on your boat trip. 

Always have a storm preparedness plan in place in the event that you encounter poor weather conditions. This includes ensuring everyone on board has life jackets, anchoring your vessel appropriately, and securing loose items on deck to prevent them from being swept overboard.

Read Next: Weather Safety Tips for Boaters

4. Check Fuel Levels While at the Dock

Running out of gas while on the water is a dangerous situation that can be easily avoided. Check the fuel levels before you head out and top off the tank if necessary. You don't want to be stranded in open water without enough gas to return to shore.

5. Drive at a Responsible Speed 

One of the most crucial responsibilities of a boat captain is to drive at a responsible speed. This means adjusting your speed based on the conditions around you, such as current, waves, and the presence of other boats. 

Boating regulatory zones are also essential to be aware of as a captain. Driving too fast puts everyone on board at risk of injury, collision, or falling overboard.

6. Check Your Navigation Lights 

Navigation lights are essential for ensuring that other boats can see you while you're on the water. Before heading out on the water, check that your lights are working correctly. This is especially important if you plan to be out after dark or encounter foggy weather.

Read Next: Boat Navigation Light Rules

7. Pack Coast Guard-Approved Lifejackets for Every Passenger

Whether you're planning a short or longer voyage, having life jackets for everyone on board is required. Confirm that you have a Coast Guard-approved lifeguard for every passenger – and ensure they fit correctly. 

It's also a good idea to go over the location and proper use of the life jackets with your passengers as well.

8. Confirm That the Emergency Cut Off Lanyard is Operational and Attached When the Boat is Underway

An emergency cut-off lanyard is a safety feature designed to immediately stop the engine if the captain falls overboard or loses control of the vessel. 

An operational lanyard should be attached to the captain before the boat sets sail. This ensures that the engine is cut off automatically in an emergency.

9. Prepare for Docking and Make Sure the Engine is Off Before Anyone Leaves the Boat

Before returning to the dock, it's essential to ensure your lines are ready, fenders are in place, and everyone on board knows the docking process. Once docked, turn off the engine before anyone leaves the boat.

10. Follow Navigation Rules 

When on the water, it's essential to follow navigation rules. Being courteous with your wake and keeping a safe distance from other vessels can help prevent collisions and ensure everyone on board stays safe. 

Additionally, never anchor in the channel, as this can be hazardous for other boats and impede their use of navigational routes.


In conclusion, being a prepared and safety-conscious boat captain makes for a better day on the water for everyone. By keeping all these boat captain tips in mind, you can ensure that your time on the water is a pleasant and safe experience for everyone involved.

This article and video are sponsored by Progressive Insurance®

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