Plan Ahead for Boating Safety Courses

Boating is a popular family pastime for many Texans. That is why it is important that you and your family are prepared before you cruise the water.

One simple, but essential way to be prepared is to enroll your family in a boater safety course. These courses, which are state required for children under the age of 18, will provide your family with indispensable boating information such as navigation rules, emergency actions and state laws.

The Brazos River Authority offers these essential boater safety courses throughout the spring and summer. Families and children 12 years of age or older are welcome to attend; children younger than 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. Not only will your family learn the importance of boating safety and responsibility, but many insurance companies will provide discounts to boat owners who have successfully completed the course.

Once you are equipped with knowledge taught through the course, be sure your boat is safely equipped as well.

Here is a checklist of items that your boat should be outfitted with to ensure a safe and fun day on the lake.

Proper License/Registration
Be sure that your vessel is legal and meets all state requirements. All motorized boats, regardless of length, and sailboats that are 14 feet or longer or have an auxiliary motor must be registered with the state.

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
In Texas, children under 13 years of age are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD while boating. Both children and adults must wear lifejackets while on personal watercrafts.

All boats, including canoes and kayaks, must have one suitable and approved PFD for each person on-board. There are several types of PFDs; be sure you and your family are familiar with which type is necessary for your next trip on the water. For a description and illustration of each type of PFD, please click here.

Once you and your family are on-board, a map can help you locate hazards, parks and marinas. Remember, Texas weather can change within minutes; knowing your location and where to seek a safe port is imperative on Texas lakes. The BRA offers complimentary lake maps through its website and at its offices.

Sound Producing Devices
These devices are needed to signal intentions and position during times when visibility is reduced. Boats more than 12 meters long are required to carry a whistle, horn or other sufficient sound-producing device.

If you own a motorboat you must have either an observer (someone other than the operator) or rearview mirrors installed. The rearview mirror must be at least four inches long and wide.

All vessels, including kayaks, canoes and rafts, must have at least one effective and bright light, lantern or flashlight displayed. The light must be visible all around the horizon from sunset to sunrise, in all weather conditions and during restricted visibility. Certain navigation lights are necessary on specific vessels as required by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

Fire extinguishers
All boats must carry a fire extinguisher onboard. The number of and type of fire extinguishers required for boats depends on the length of the boat, fuel tank location and type of engine.

Hazard/Navigational Buoys
Hazard and Navigation buoys are placed throughout the lake to alert you to potential hazards, water conditions and restrictions. Click here for a buoy identification legend.