Boarding and Loading your Boat

Know your boat's capacity! It is indicated on the Capacity Plate. Never overload or put an oversize motor on it. To determine the passenger capacity for boats with no capacity plate, use the following formula: Number of people (Capacity) = (Length of boat in feet X width of boat) / 15.

Single-hull motorboats less than 20 feet in length which are manufactured after 1972 must display capacity and safe horsepower information. The maximum weight in persons, gear and motors is offered as a guide to boaters, and should not be exceeded. It is not a violation of federal or California state law to exceed recommended maximums. However, other states may cite an operator who exceeds capacity and horsepower limitations. Some insurance companies will not insure craft exceeding horsepower maximums and some boat manufacturers will void any applicable warranties for the same reasons.

Be sure the dock lines are tied securely before you put gear aboard or go aboard the boat. Don't straddle from dock to boat. If the boat is small, step as near the centerline as possible and stay low. As you load the boat, be aware of the distance that is between the water and the top edge of your boat, or the freeboard. Waves and wakes can easily swamp a small boat with low freeboard. Never overload the boat, or load heavy gear to one side.

When you're "tipsy," you're much more likely to fall overboard. Alcohol also reduces your body's ability to protect against the cold water, so within minutes you may not be able to call for help or swim to safety. A drunk person whose head is immersed can be confused in the water and actually swim down instead of up.


It's the operator's responsibility that supplies be carefully loaded and all passengers be properly seated. Remember:

Check List

Before embarking on a cruise:

  1. File a float plan
  2. Give consideration to basic safety items, including the following:
  3. Cancel your "Float Plan" when you return


To quickly and easily master getting into and out of a canoe without getting wet, remember the following important points:

Capsizing: If you should capsize the canoe, relax and make contact with the canoe with your hands. Stay upside-down while you extract feet and legs from the canoe, then surface maintaining contact with the canoe. Keep your eyes open.