Tips for lowering risks on the water

Tips to lower injury risk on the water

We attend Charter vessel meetings on a regular basis and frequently are asked; “What are things we can do to minimize risk and hopefully avoid legal liability issues?”

It’s an interesting question, it’s like being asked, “What is the best lure to use while fishing?” 

Over the years we’ve seen many different bodily injury or property damage incidents occur with our clients and also with other vessel operators insured elsewhere.

This message will cover a few areas that possibly with a little extra attention can protect you and your passengers.

With the introduction of Covid in 2020 we have seen a huge increase to the numbers of boaters on the water.  And a 25% increase in boating fatalities to go along with that increase in new boaters. Many without experience or without experience on a similar size vessel.  I’m sure many of you have seen reckless operators while you’ve been on the water. 

Here is just one example from 2020.  “While out on the big water fishing for salmon, with multiple lines out, a trawler heading out of the Harbor, at full Trawler speed.  Needless to say the operator was not paying attention.  Cuts across the lines, ignoring the wave and the blast of the horn.  As this operator passes by within 100 ft. we notice he is reading a book and the boat is on auto-pilot.”  No doubt you’ve all seen something similar to this, or likely a boat full of people enjoying too much time diving in their cooler and then thinking it is safe for them to operate a boat. 

Top Six factors of accidents in the recreational boating world: (per the USCG)

  1. Operator inattention - Could be cell phones, talking to a passenger, texting, selfies, eating, drinking or checking GPS. Not a problem captains have personally, but a problem for captains focused on protecting their passengers.
  2. Improper Lookout- Having someone on the boat with their head on a swivel.  Similar to having a person watching the skier or tuber, behind the boat.  Someone to watch for floating objects or other conditions that could cause an accident.
  3. Operator inexperience - As we know with tides, currents, winds and rules of the water, not everyone is as skilled nor experienced as a Charter Captain.
  4. Excessive Speed - Regardless of how experienced an operator may be, it is critical that all vessels maintain a safe speed at all times:  It is easy to lose control of a boat and cause an accident when moving at high speed. A rouge wave, hitting a submerged object or a fixed object, or when conditions are not ideal.
  5. Alcohol Use - Either by the operator of the vessel or passengers on a vessel can be dangerous…  “ and is the #1 contributor to injuries on a boat”
  6. Maintenance - A properly maintained vessel is a much safer vessel to ride aboard.


So besides watching out for the other boaters out there what else can you do to minimize risk for you, your passengers, and your crew?

The top 5 Operational Risk Management steps

  1. Identify Hazards
  2. Assess Hazards
  3. Make Risk Decisions
  4. Implement Controls
  5. Supervise
  6. Have a clear and descriptive liability waiver for paying passengers

Here are 5 things that may be helpful in keeping your passengers safe

  1. Review the safety procedures and expectations prior to launching the trip-including where the life jackets are located.
  2. Know the waters you plan to navigate and your equipment
  3. Keep slippery substances like fish slime washed down-slip and falls can be very dangerous for all parties.
  4. Have hand rails available along the gangways
  5. Ensure the passengers remain seated as much as possible while the vessel is underway 


These are just a few tips to help keep the fun in the voyage for all parties.  Be safe, be alert, keep your passengers safe, and as always give us a call if you have questions.


Gallagher Charter Lakes

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