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Preparation and planning are part of what makes the boating experience FUN! Below are some considerations as you plan for your epic excursions to ensure a safe and enjoyable time on the water.
Make sure your vessel is in ship shape before lining up at the boat ramp. Make sure your motor and other equipment are in good working order. Prep your gear and supplies in the parking or staging area vs. at the boat launch to keep launching and retrieving traffic flowing.

​​We're asking boaters to follow reopening guidelines, to wear face protection when you aren't able to maintain 6-feet or more of physical distance (docks, boat ramps, restrooms, etc.). Our COVID-19 page has other pointers for a safe experience. Have a plan B for access if your first option is too crowded for your comfort level. 

​Depending on your boat type and boat length, certain safety equipment ​may be required. Be sure you have these items and they are in good, serviceable (not expired) condition.

Also, if you are a paddler with a boat 10' or longer, make sure to purchase and are able to display your Waterway Access Permit. Motorized boaters, make sure you have a valid registrationand carry your Certificate of Number on board. Here's where you can find additional statewide regulations.

​Our waterways are always cold and sudden immersion can lead to an involuntary gasp reflex where a person breathes in water which then enters into the lungs - leading to drowning. A life jacket will keep a person’s head above water so inhaling water is less likely, and will allow the person to gain control of their breathing. It's important boaters know how to self-rescue and the 1-10-1 principle: 

1-10-1 principle of cold water survival

Before you head out, check the local weather and sea conditions. Weather information is available by listening to local radio stations, U.S. Coast Guard radio, or the National Weather Service VHF/FM broadcasts on frequencies: 162.400, 162.425, 162.475 and 162.550 MHz in areas where available. Along the Oregon coast, tune in to 1610 AM for local weather and coastal bar crossing information. Storm warning flags are displayed at selected coastal locations such as U.S. Coast Guard stations, marinas, public piers and yacht clubs. These signals are a prediction of potentially dangerous wind, or in the case of small craft warnings, winds and seas dangerous to small boats. Boaters should know the signals and heed their warnings, especially at coastal bar locations.  

​“Stability” is the resistance of a boat to forces that tend to induce a boat to “tip” from one side to the other. Smaller boats tend to have less stability based on the center of gravity of the boat, AND the individuals in the boat. People, gear, and environmental conditions have a greater stability impact on smaller, lighter boats. Small boat operators need to pay close attention to weather conditions, water conditions, how their boat is operating, gear weight and most importantly, their own impact on overall stability. Never stand up quickly, even when landing a big fish! Keep your center of gravity along the center line of the boat as much as possible. Falls overboard and capsizing are the primary contributing factors of accidents and fatalities in Oregon.

Operators are responsible for carefully loading supplies and seating passengers properly. Remember:

  1. Spread weight evenly.
  2. Fasten gear to prevent shifting.
  3. Keep passengers seated in designated areas. Sitting on the gunwales, bow, or transom of a boat that’s underway is unsafe and illegal.
  4. Don’t overload the boat. Follow the boat manufacturer’s capacity plate.

​Have a VHF radio for coastal rivers and bays, as well as the ocean. When boating in the ocean, also consider more robust communication devices like an EPIRB or PLB.  At a minimum, carry a cell phone in a dry pak. Cell phones are considered an unreliable form of communication in many locations due to limited cell tower signal strength, especially in remote areas.

Boaters who plan a trip for more than a day should complete a “Float Plan” and leave it with a friend or neighbor. Then, if you don’t return as planned, the proper agency can be notified. The float plan will provide the necessary information including where you are going and when you’re expecting to be back. Be sure to tell people when you return.​

  • Do not exceed either the stated maximum weight capacity or the maximum number of people indicated by your boat capacity plate.
  • The maximum weight is the combined weight of passengers, gear and motors (including ballast tanks or other devices).
  • It’s a violation to exceed the boat capacity. If your boat does not have a capacity plate, use the following formula to determine the number of people the boat will safely carry, and do not exceed that limit.

Number of people = Length of boat (in feet) X Width of the boat (in feet) / 15

The results give the number of persons (150 lb. average) that can be put aboard without crowding, in good weather conditions. Overloading a boat is not only dangerous, it’s illegal.

​Oregon law requires a two-year trailer registration, when the loaded weight of the trailer and boat exceed 1800 pounds. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registers trailers. 

Trailers, including boat trailers, must have stop, tail and turn signal lights with two red reflectors mounted on the rear of the trailer. They must also have side reflectors and marker lights: amber on the side at the front, and red on the sides at the rear. These lights and reflectors may be separate units or installed in combinations. If the trailer is over 80 inches wide, it must have clearance and identification lights. If the trailer has a license plate, it must have a license plate light.

Booster brakes are best with heavy boats. The driver of the towing vehicle must be able to safely stop in a reasonable distance.

Adequate tie-downs are needed at the bow and stern. Temporary bumper hitches are not recommended.

Hitches should be welded or bolted to the frame of the towing vehicle.

One or two safety chains or cables are required, connected to prevent the tow bar from dropping to the ground in the event the toolbar or coupling device fails. The chains or cables must have a tensile strength equal to the weight of the trailer, and long enough to permit proper turning of the vehicle. Take time to practice maneuvering and backing in an open area before launching at the ramp, to develop proficiency.  

Keep in mind, backing down a ramp in a straight line is more difficult than on level ground.

​The following tips are offered to assist you in launching and retrieving your boat to avoid unnecessary delay and blocking the ramp. Conduct these operations in the “staging area,” as much as possible. 

Staging Area

  1. Be sure all required safety equipment and certificate of number are on board. You must also carry a boater education card if the boat motor is over 10 hp.
  2. Load your boat with your gear and supplies in the staging area.
  3. Make sure the trailer tongue is securely fastened to the ball hitch, remove all tie-downs and un-plug the trailer lights.
  4. Check condition of battery, motor and angle of drive unit (tilted up). Also, make sure your bilge pump works.
  5. Make sure the boat plug is firmly in place.

Launching (retrieving is in reverse order)

  1. Slowly reverse the boat trailer down the ramp, and stop just before the stern hangs over the water.
  2. Disconnect the winch strap and remove any pins or other devices used to prevent an outboard motor from tipping down.
  3. Back the boat trailer down the ramp until the trailer wheels are submerged. Have a helper take a bow line, or tie it to your vehicle or winch handle.
  4. Float off the trailer. Once the boat is away from the trailer, tie your vessel to the dock with the bow line.  Avoid "power loading," which displaces material at the toe of the boat ramp, causing deep ruts and shoals that making launching and retrieving potentially dangerous.  This practice can also cause significant damage to the toe of the ramp, not to mention a boat trailer or boat hull. Experienced boaters will have someone move the boat away from the dock until the driver has parked and is ready to board.
  5. Always run the blower for four minutes before you start the engine. You can begin this process at the staging area to reduce your wait time.
  6. When retrieving, remember to "Pull the Plug​" and allow all water-holding compartments to drain as you leave the waterbody and while in transit.

Be courteous! The less time you spend on the ramp or at the dock, the more other boaters will appreciate you. Learn best practices to avoid conflict at the boating facility.

​All persons operating a rented watercraft greater than 10 hp must carry the signed portion of the Watercraft Rental Safety Checklist if they do not already possess a boater education card. All other provisions of the Mandatory Boater Education Program apply, including minimum operator ages and supervision. The livery, or rental facility, will have each boat operator complete this form and walk through basic boating safety items on this checklist with a qualified staff member. Your signed copy of this checklist acts as a temporary boater education card only during the operation of the rented watercraft.​

​Most fires and explosions happen shortly after fueling. To prevent this type of accident, follow these rules:

  1. Fuel before dark.
  2. Don’t smoke or strike matches.
  3. Shut off motors. Turn off electrical equipment.
  4. Close all windows, doors and openings.
  5. Take portable tanks out of the boat and fill them on the dock.
  6. Keep the fill nozzle in contact with the tank rim to prevent a buildup of static electricity, which could produce a spark.
  7. Fuel tanks expand as they warm. Do not fill tanks completely, because overfilling can lead to spills.
  8. Wipe up any spilled gasoline from around the boat. Discard the cloth in a safe manner. The bilge pad will soak up any overflow or spills while protecting the water.
  9. If your boat is equipped with a power ventilation system (blower), turn it on for at least four minutes after fueling, prior to starting your engine. This will help eliminate gas vapors in the bilge.
  10. Before restarting the engine, sniff the bilge and engine compartments for fumes. Periodically check the entire fuel system for leaks. Some fuels contain alcohol (ethanol-blended fuel), which can cause rubber gaskets and hoses to deteriorate, resulting in fuel leaks and clogged fuel filters. Be sure to winterize your boat each season, so it runs well.



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