safe boating

Photo courtesy of Sgt. Ryan Borkert. The Contra Costa County Marine Patrol works hard to make local waterways safe for boaters. 

With the official boating season underway, Delta boaters are expected to be out on the water in record numbers this year, and the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff Marine Services Unit is reminding boaters to be safe, alert and obey the rules. 

Here are some important ones:

• As of Jan. 1, 2018, anyone 20 or under who operates a vessel that is propelled by an engine, regardless of whether the engine is the principal source of propulsion, must have in their possession a California Boater Card issued by the state. 

• All vessels must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each passenger. The life jacket must fit the person intending to wear it. Children under 13 must always wear a life jacket while aboard any vessel, regardless of length, unless they are surrounded by an enclosed cabin or bulkhead.

• You must be at least 16 years old to operate a powerboat or personal watercraft. All persons on a personal watercraft are required to wear an approved life jacket.

• Boats over 16 feet are required to have an approved, throwable flotation device, which must be readily accessible.

• Always travel at a safe speed. Slow down in narrow channels and blind areas, and navigate on the right side of the waterway. At a cross waterway, the boat on the right has the right of way.

• Blue light law – Any vessel approaching, overtaking, being approached or being overtaken by a moving law enforcement vessel operating with a siren or an illuminated blue light, or any vessel approaching a stationary law enforcement vessel displaying an illuminated blue light shall immediately slow. Boaters cannot make a wake near a law enforcement vessel displaying a blue light.

• Always have an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, warm clothing, cell phone, VHF radio and chart. Boaters are encouraged to call Sheriff’s Dispatch at 925-646-2441 for emergencies on the water. Be sure to file a float plan before you depart.

Boating under the influence (BUI) enforcement is a high priority. Those arrested for BUI will face the same consequences as those who drive a motor vehicle under the influence, including fines and possible incarceration.

The “ABC’s of Boating,” a handbook of boating rules, is available from most boating shops. 

For more information about boating safety, contact the Marine Services Unit at 925-427-8507 or visit