Safe Boating Means Using Common Sense On The Water

Safe Boating

boatingSummer is boating season, compelling flocks of people to visit Oregon’s waterways to cool off and escape the heat. Boating started early with a warm spring, and this summer is turning out to be one for the record books. When heading out to the water, bring your boat and your gear, but don’t forget to bring your good judgment as well.

Your judgment could be the difference between a great day on the water and a tragic end. Oregon already has 11 boater deaths this year and we are only half way through the year. This compares to seven deaths in 2014. Of the 11 fatalities, nine were not wearing life jackets, seven were in non-motorized watercraft, and five are being investigated for being under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Many of these deaths were preventable.

“This year, “partying” turns out to be a serious killer. Alcohol and drugs are implicated in nearly half the fatalities and it’s like we’ve turned back the clock a decade,” says Randy Henry, Boating Safety Manager for the Marine Board. “Even a small amount of alcohol, when combined with sun and wind can impair your judgment. If you intend to recreate on Oregon’s waters, leave the alcohol and drugs behind, get the right gear, wear your lifejacket and pay attention to your surroundings,” Henry adds.

It is essential for boaters to carry the proper equipment, including lights for nighttime operation that conform with state law, even on paddlecraft. Waterways are becoming more crowded as the weather warms and water levels recede, so it is important for smaller craft to be visible, and for all boaters to know the rules of the road. Be vigilant by keeping a constant lookout to the front, the sides and even behind you. On moving water, this includes scouting ahead for obstructions, and not getting into water beyond your abilities.

Since June 1, marine patrol deputies have issued more than 300 citations to boat operators, where 37% were for life jacket violations (a $260 fine), and 11 individuals were arrested for Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (3.5% of all cites, up to a year in jail, $6,000 in fines). Nearly 26% of all citations relate to violations of the state’s aquatic invasive species laws – either not having an AIS permit, or driving past a signed, mandatory AIS check station when transporting a boat (including paddlecraft on car rooftops). Other common citations include lack of a fire extinguisher when required ($160 fine), violating slow-no-wake zone rules ($260), or not carrying a Boater Education Card ($110).

For more information about equipment requirements, rules of the road for paddlecraft and motorized boats, and boating laws and rules, visit

information and photo by OSMB