5 steps to a safe boating trip

Find out how to plan your boat trip including what to take with you, what the skipper is responsible for, passenger safety, weather, tides, trailers, checking the motor and taking enough fuel.

  Step 1:Overview and vessel voyage plan

Plan for even the smallest trip - the safety and the success of any boating trip depends as much on what you do before you leave as on what you do once you are at sea.

Planning starts with confidence in yourself, and in a seaworthy vessel. Skippers should know how to reduce incidents at sea through the application of a trip plan.

For more information on how to plan your boat trip, refer to the following pages:

Please also download the Vessel Voyage Plan below, which can help you plan your trip.

  Step 2:Seaworthy vessel and skipper responsibility

A seaworthy vessel is in good condition, suitable and properly equipped for the planned trip, and skippered by a person who accepts the responsibility that goes with the job.

Assess your responsibility:

  • Are you confident of your abilities as a skipper, and do you realise your responsibilities?
  • If you have passengers with you, are you undertaking a trip you have done before?
  • Is the trip appropriate to the ages of your passengers?
  • Check the weather and tides. If in doubt do not go.
  • Study a chart of the waters you intend cruising.
  • Tell someone where you plan to go and when you intend to return. If your plans change, let them know.
  • Check that all your safety gear and extras are on board, in good shape and in reach.
  • Check that you have more than enough fuel.

Assess your passengers situation and safety:

  • Is your boat suitable for the trip, and is the trip suitable for the passengers? (Children may fret on a long trip, first timers may be nervous going far offshore).
  • Are there any special medical problems?
  • Do they have their medication with them?
  • Are they prone to seasickness?
  • If there is an injury on board, do you have a first aid kit and the skills to use it?

You should ensure that everybody has protection from the sun-adequate clothing, and both hats and sun block (reflected sunlight gets below hat brims).

  Step 3:Vessel suitability and loading


Some boats should never go outside the inshore reefs. Their size, hull shape and general design do not suit them to the exposed ocean. Seek the advice of experienced people on the capabilities of your vessel.


Determine that your boat is not overloaded. Even a boat that is not overloaded may be uncomfortably crowded, and that will make your passengers uncomfortable.

  Step 4:Weather and tides

Find out about current forecasts, sources of weather information, synoptic charts, wave and sea breeze information and tsunamis on our Weather page.

Find out more about tide fluctuations with the Department of Transport's Tide Prediction charts.

  Step 5:Motor check and fuel for the trip

Before each trip, a good idea for outboard motors, particularly older ones, is to attach a flushing device and test start the motor (before leaving home). For more information on typical service and checks your motor will need, go to Maintaining your Boat.

Fuel for the trip

You can work out your likely fuel consumption from your vessel's history:

  • Record the hours the motor runs for on a trip and the litres needed to top up the tank.
  • Divide the hours run into the litres used.
  • This gives you a litres per hour consumption rate.

To calculate the minimum litres needed for a trip; multiply the litres per hour by the estimated duration of the voyage.

For example:

  • If you travel for 2 hours and require 10 litres to top up the tank (10 litres divided by 2 hours = 5 litres per hour) your fuel consumption is 5 litres per hour.
  • If you intend to travel on a 4 hour voyage and use 5 litres per hour (5 litres per hour multiplied by 4 hours = 20 litres) you will require 20 litres for the voyage.

Reserve fuel required

Fuel consumption varies greatly, especially with a change in the sea conditions. Aim to carry 50 per cent more fuel than you expect to use for your planned length and distance of trip.

If this means you have to carry spare fuel in a portable container, use an approved one and make sure you have a means of transferring the fuel, such as a funnel.

Image of stormy weather

Page last updated: Fri Feb 2 2018 1:45:05 PM