Boating Safety: Be Prepared to Drop Anchor in Oakland County

There’s a bunch of fun and excitement to be had on the water when boating. However, it’s incredibly important to be prepared and to review safety tips involving boats and lakes before heading out to the water. Don’t worry; check out our thorough guide on boating safety below, and you’ll be set to ride the waves and lay out on the lake all summer long.


Watercraft Registration

  • Watercraft registration must be current and on board
  • Where required by law, ensure that the operator has a State of Michigan Boater Safety Certificate on board
  • Properly display MC numbers and current validation decal (e.g. both sides of the hull, forward half of vessel, above waterline, 3 inch block letters and numbers of contrasting colors to the watercraft’s hull)

A 4x4 getting ready to put a boat in the water.


  • Safety chains must be used when towing
  • Trailer must be equipped with working brake lights and tail lights
  • Make sure tires are in good condition with proper pressure
  • Maintain wheel bearings
  • Ensure that trailer hitch size matches the towing ball size

Ventilation & Fuel

  • Check for fuel smells
  • Check bilge for gas or oil
  • Correct all flammable liquid problems before starting your engine or operating electrical devices
  • Run your ventilation blower before initially starting the engine
  • Before fueling, close all compartments
  • After fueling is completed, open all compartments to ventilate and run the blower for at least 4 minutes to purge all trapped fumes
  • Be sure to have enough fuel to provide a reasonable margin for safe return
  • Check the oil to make sure it is at the proper level

Fire Extinguisher

Fire Extinguishers 

  • Required when carrying flammable liquids or fuel on board
  • Must be fully charged
  • Check the gauge or use of small test button to check the pressure
  • Must be a type “B” fire extinguisher (for flammable liquids)
  • Must be U.S. Coast Guard approved for marine use
  • Vessels less than 26 feet, one size 1 extinguisher is required
  • Vessels 26 feet and less than 40 feet, two size 1 extinguishers, or one size 2 extinguisher are required
  • Vessels 40 feet to less than 65 feet, three size 1 extinguishers, or one size 1 and one size 2 extinguisher are required

Sound Producing Device

  • Horn or portable device, e.g. whistle or air horn capable of producing a 4 second blast that can be heard for at least 1/2 mile


  • Required between the hours of sunset & sunrise
  • Red and green navigation lights
  • White stern and/or anchor light

Visual Distress Signals

  • Required on Federal waters
  • Accessible flares and day signals stored in a dry location

Safety Concerns, Tools, and Spare Equipment 

  • Consider carrying “tools” you may need such as a cell phone
  • Spare light bulbs, spare keys, flashlights, etc.
  • Anchor & line
  • Dock lines
  • Boat fenders / bumpers
  • First-Aid kit

Family in Raft Being Towed on Lake

PFDs – Personal Flotation Devices

  • Children under the age of 6 must wear a Type I or Type II  PFD while on the open deck of a vessel
  • Persons operating, riding on, or being towed behind Personal Watercraft (PWC) must wear a Type I, II, or III PFD
  • Vessels 16′ or greater in length must have a Type IV throwable PFD in addition to jacket type PFD’s on board
  • Use of Type III inflatable PFD’s is illegal when operating, riding on, or being towed by a PWC
  • Type III inflatable PFD’s are legal on watercraft (other than PWC’s for persons 16 years of age or older

Weather and Water Conditions

  • Check the weather forecast and file a float plan with a friend

Additional Boater Safety Tips

  • Designate a spotter to help to look out for the people in and around the boat as well as other boats
  • Everyone in and outside of the boat should have a way to communicate with each other (a great way to do that is to agree on a set of hand signals prior to going out on the lake)
  • Tell someone where you’re going, who is with you, and how long you’ll be away
  • Stay dry and warm
  • Anchor from bow, not stern
  • Take a boater safety course
  • Make sure to allow for as much space as possible when passing other boats
  • When changing seats, stay low and near center line of a small boat

Boating Safety Classes

This checklist is not a supplement for a boater safety class. If you are out on a boat and haven’t taken a boater safety class, it’s never too late. Click HERE for a list of boater safety classes being offered by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for free. To register, please call (248) 858-7831.

For more information on boat safety please visit the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office’s Website.

For more information on recreation and safety in Oakland County, visit our website and follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest using #OaklandCounty.

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