Looking behind a speeding boat in the early morning, watching the sunrise on Waiheke island, New Zealand

The long Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start to summer and, for many people, kicks off the recreational boating season. Waterways throughout Minnesota already have been more crowded than usual this spring, an apparent continuation of what was an exceptionally busy year in 2020.

With boaters of all experience and skill levels sharing Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, everyone must take seriously their safety responsibilities.

Following are a few simple safety tips that will help make the start of the boating season fun, memorable and safe.

  • Life jackets on, all the time. Don’t just bring one, wear one. In Minnesota, 90 percent of boating fatality victims are not wearing a life jacket. By law, children under 10 years old must wear one while the boat is underway. Wearing a life jacket is the easiest step boaters of all ages can take to help ensure they get home safely.
  • Drinking and boating do not mix. Boating under the influence is illegal and is the single greatest factor in fatal boating accidents. Keep the alcohol on shore for the safety of friends, family and everyone on the water.
  • Check safety equipment. For those putting their boat in the water for the first time this season, it’s important to check all safety equipment. That includes making sure life jackets fit and are in good condition and checking navigation lights, sound-producing device, fire extinguisher and carbon monoxide detectors. Also remember to inspect – and use – the engine cut-off lanyard.
  • Own the wake. “Owning the wake” means understanding that all boats produce wakes, so all boaters need to be aware of the potential impacts of their wake. This includes impacts to others on the water, the shoreline, and equipment like docks and moored watercraft.
  • Know the rules. Make sure you know Minnesota’s boating laws and regulations. An online education course can help increase your knowledge.

In addition to helping to ensure safety, boaters also play a vital role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. Every time their boat comes out of the water – whether an AIS inspector or enforcement officer is present or not – boaters must clean aquatic plants and debris from their watercraft, drain lake or river water, and dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. Boaters must remember to keep their drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft.

Further details, including boater education requirements and information on safe boating, can be found at mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.