Recreational Boating Safety
Eighth Coast Guard District
500 Poydras St Suite 1331
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 671-2148





Boat Safe, Boat Smart, Have Fun

This page serves as a general resource for recreational boating safety information. Should an issue or topic not be addressed here, feel free to contact Paul Barnard, the District Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) Program Manager, via email at or by telephone at 504-671-2148.

Here are a few “hot” links that will provide boaters the basic information necessary to comply with the law and boat safely. There is also additional information that will provide you a method for completing a float plan to leave with a loved one or someone else that you can trust to make sure you get home as scheduled with the info necessary for you to be found if overdue. Also, if you enjoy paddlesports in a canoe, on an SUP or in a kayak, check out the American Canoe Association (ACA) website.

Federal requirements

Free Vessel Safety Checks

Coast Guard Boating Safety

PDF fillable Float Plan

Paddler / paddlesports / SUP

This page is presently undergoing some reconstruction.  While we are in the process of building you a better web page, we’d like to invite you to join our Recreational Boating Safety Facebook Group.

Until we have completed the rebuilding process, we offer the following Boating Safety Tips

Always wear a life jacket when in an open boat or on an open deck. Trying to put your life jacket on in the water is extremely difficult (if not impossible) and costs precious time and energy.


All life jackets provide life-saving supplemental floatation in the water, but no one style is perfectly suited for all persons in all situations. Read the life jacket label. Make sure it is U.S. Coast Guard approved, the proper size for the intended user, and appropriate for the activity. Then make sure you’re wearing it to the design specifications of the manufacturer – zip all the zippers, buckle all the buckles and snap all the snaps!

See the life jacket selector on the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Internet page for more information.

For more information regarding cold water immersion and hypothermia, check out for some of the latest information dealing with this potentially deadly recreational boating issue.

Engine Interruption (Cut-off) Device

Runaway boats are a potential hazard that can be mitigated with a switch or other system that when activated in an emergency, provides the means to stop the propulsion engine.

Emergency engine/propulsion cut-off devices, sometimes referred to as an engine cut-off switch or kill switch, are a time-proven safety device used to stop the boats engines should the driver unexpectedly fall overboard. A mechanical lanyard is designed to attach between a passenger/operator and the system that stops the engine under emergency conditions.

The boat operator/passenger can unexpectedly fall overboard when the boat hits a wave, wake, takes a sharp turn, runs into a submerged object, suffers steering failure, and more.  Many unmanned powerboats will enter and continue to turn in a circle until they run out of gas or hit something. That something could be the person that fell overboard.

Additional information regarding engine cut-off switches from the BoatU.S. Foundation is available here.

Practice Safe Boating

  • Prevent capsizing - Reduce speed in rough water, load carefully, secure loads from shifting, and adjust for changing conditions. Wait for poor weather to improve.
  • Prevent falls overboard - Remain seated while underway, wear non-skid foot wear, and avoid reaching overboard for objects.
  • Equip the boat - Boats should be equipped or designed with a reboarding device.
  • File a float plan - Leave it with a friend or relative. Include a description of your boat and equipment, names of passengers, planned destination and route, expected return and when and who to call if overdue.
  • Brief passengers - Everyone should know where all safety equipment is (and how to use it), and how to start, stop and steer the boat.

    Boater education saves lives - Take a boating safety education course!

    Get, be and stay prepared: Statistics show that more than 80 percent of those involved in boating fatalities have never taken a boating safety course or had any other type of formal boating education.  Courses approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) are readily available through your state’s boating enforcement agency, the Power Squadron, Coast Guard Auxiliary and other organizations have excellent volunteer instructors who offer numerous and varied classes across the country throughout the year. These classes offer introductory and basic information in such subject areas as different boat types, things you need to know before getting underway, how to tow and operate your boat correctly, legal requirements, basic weather, boating emergencies and what to do as well as other interesting subject areas about all types of boats and boating. The instructors are eager, able and ready to help you learn more about operating your boat safely and proficiently. And in many cases, these classes are offered free of charge. Once you complete the brief introductory eight hour course, check with your insurance agent as most companies offer a reduced insurance premium to educated boat owners and operators. National Association of State Boating Law Administrator (NASBLA) certified courses are also offered by other organizations such as the Red Cross, Power Squadron, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and other boating organizations.

    Safe boats save lives - Get a free Vessel Safety Check!

    Boats that are properly equipped, in good operating condition, and safe from hazards are less likely to be involved in accidents and fatalities. While the law doesn’t require certain items or supplies such as an anchor, visual distress signals or other safety equipment on inland lakes, Federal requirements on navigable waterways, e.g. the Gulf of Mexico, Greta Lakes, Mississippi River and its tributaries are more stringent and demanding. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadron or local law-enforcement officers would be happy to check your boat for you. Contact representatives of the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron to request a free Vessel Safety Check by visiting and clicking on "I WANT A VSC." Learn what you need to have to make sure your boat is always seaworthy and ready to go.

    Sober boating saves lives - Avoid alcohol and other drugs while on or near the water!

    Approximately 40 percent of all boating fatalities involve the use of alcohol. If you are drunk and get into an accident on the water, but are fortunate enough to survive, you will likely suffer financial and personal consequences such as large fines and the possible loss of automobile driving privileges. Drugs and alcohol don't just impact the boat operator; passengers who have been drinking alcohol, for example, are 10 times more likely to fall overboard. And, if they aren’t wearing life jackets, possibly face drowning. You hear it all the time: Water and alcohol don't mix! Many states have a zero-tolerance and that means any boat operator impaired to the slightest degree could be arrested. Don’t risk a great day on the water—keep a good day good and go home safe.

    Following these four basic boating tips will help keep you safe. The Eighth Coast Guard District hopes that you and your loved ones enjoy boating during the years to come. Safe boating is no accident — keep a good day on the water good by following these four easy-to-follow basic principles.

    Still have questions about cold water immersion? Check out or 

    Still have questions about general boating safety? Check out the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety page!

    Paddlesports (canoe, SUP, kayak or rowing) questions? Check out the American Canoe Association (ACA) page!

    Still have questions about boating safety issues? Feel free to contact Paul Barnard, the District Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) Program Manager, via email at or by telephone at 504-671-2148.