​Boating safety tips

​This page has safety tips to help you plan and prepare for your boating trip.

Ultimately, it is the skipper’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the vessel and everyone on board.


  • Always wear a lifejacket.
  • Make sure you have lifejackets for all on board. Lifejackets are the single most important safety item on any boat and there should be one on board for each person​.
  • Make sure your inflatable lifejackets are ready to go everytime and serviced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Go to the lifejackets page for more information​.

Check wea​​ther and local conditions

  • Stay alert to weather conditions, tide and sea/swell conditions (particularly if crossing a bar). Monitor the Bureau of Meteorology for any severe weather warnings issued. Stay ashore if warnings are current or the weather appears doubtful. More information about Monitoring Weather conditions
  • Seek up-to-date local knowledge - this applies to both boating on the ocean or on lakes or rivers. Conditions on rivers and lakes may be affected by low water levels. Contact your local Marine Rescue Unit for local current and forecast conditions.

Check your craft and sa​​fety equipment

  • Check your craft thoroughly in all respects before heading out on the water. Make sure your vessel is appropriate for the conditions
  • Check the motor is running properly. Make sure your engines or outboards are serviced regularly, particularly following a long period of non-use. Do not set out until any engine trouble has been fixed. The engine might clear itself, but the chances are problems will only get worse
  • Check your fuel - you should have enough fuel for the return trip plus a margin of at least 50%
  • It is important that all safety gear is in good condition and ready for use because a lifejacket stowed under the anchor chain or a distress flare which has expired will not do the job it was designed for - to help save a life.
  • Have a VHF marine radio as part of your offshore safety equipment and know how to use it.

Keep in tou​ch

  • Notify others - check that a responsible person knows the description of your boat, the number of passengers, where you are going, and your expected time of return or arrival
  • Log on with your local Marine Rescue NSW unit – on marine radio VHF CH16 or the free MarineRescue App. Tell them where you are going, estimated time of return, vessel details, how many people on board, and advise them when you return.

Coastal bar crossing safety

When crossing coastal bars, skippers should:

  • Check the weather forecast, sea conditions and tides – observe the bar from land prior to crossing
  • Some coastal bars have live web cams installed. Check the Roads & Maritime live footage if a web cam is set up at the bar
  • All people in a recreational vessel must wear an appropriate lifejacket when crossing coastal bars
  • Log on with Marine Rescue via VHF Ch16 or via the free MarineRescue App
  • Exercise caution at all times – even on calm days
  • Remember that conditions may have changed by the time you return
  • If possible, time your trip to cross a bar on an incoming tide
  • If in doubt, don’t go out.

General sa​​fety

  • Always operate your boat at a safe speed. Stay within the limits of your vessel and your experience.
  • Be alert to possible riskier situations while boating, including at night, boating alone, crossing bars, and high risk of capsize or swamping. Keep a proper lookout at all times.
  • Use lights at night.

​Boating and Personal Watercraft Handbooks​​

Roads & Maritime publish handbooks to help you understand the rules and how to plan and prepare for your boating or personal watercraft outing.

Roads & Maritime Boating Han​​dbook​​​

  • The Roads & Maritime Boating Han​​​dbook will help you know the rules, be prepared and make good decisions if things don't go to plan.
  • Get the Boating Handbook in PDF from the Roads & Maritime website.​

Roads & Maritime Personal Wat​​ercraft Handbook​

  • The Roads & Maritime Personal Watercraft Handbook contains information about the rules and requirements for driving a Personal Watercraft (PWC) and provides tips on how to operate your PWC safely and reduce conflict with other people around the waterways.
  • Get the Personal Watercraft Handbook in PDF​ from the Roads & Maritime website.​​