We are delighted to have your students participate in the 22nd Annual Safe & Wise Water Ways Poster Contest. This year, the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways is highlighting the following three boating and aquatic safety themes:


1) Wear a Life Jacket!

Everyone should wear a life jacket while boating. Many jobs and sports require special safety clothing. For example: firefighters, police officers, or football and soccer players. A life jacket is considered wearable safety gear for boaters. The healthy habit of wearing a properly fitting, Coast Guard-approved life jacket can save your life. California law requires children under 13 to wear a life jacket while boating. It is just as important to wear a life jacket while boating as it is for you to wear a seat belt while riding in a car.


2) Learn the Boating Rules of the Road!

There are rules for boating, just as there are rules for driving. These
rules include:


    A person must be 16 or older to operate a motorboat alone.

    When two boats meet head on, both go to their right.

    When two boats cross paths, the boat to the right has the right-of-way.

    Boats must stay away from swimming areas, large ships, shipping areas,

       water skiers, fisherman, anchored vessels, docks and moorings.

    Safe boaters are always courteous and cautious.


Take a boating safety course to learn more about how to stay safe on the waterways.


3) Keep Our Waterways Clean!

The waterways belong to all of us. We all have to help keep the water clean because clean water is safer water. Plastic, litter, oils, gas and human sewage can not only ruin the beauty of boating waters, but can injure or kill aquatic life.


Boaters should also “Clean, Drain and Dry" their boats every time they leave a waterway to avoid the spread of aquatic invasive species, such as quagga/zebra mussels. Invasive species can ruin boats and the ecological balance of entire bodies of water.


Some ways to help keep the waterways clean include:


    Drain all water and dry all areas of a boat.

    Dispose of all bait in the trash.

    Keep watercraft dry between launches into different fresh waters.

    Keep a trash bag on your boat and use it! Do not throw trash overboard.

    Use the restroom before you go boating.


Additional skills and knowledge:


Learn to swim:

Everyone can and should learn to swim. Learning to swim can help save your life and keep you calm when you are in the water. Boating and other water activities are safer for those who can swim and float. Call your local pools, YMCA/YWCA, American Red Cross, aquatic centers or swim club to sign up for lessons.


Look before you leap:

Never jump or dive into water when the depth or type of bottom is unknown.


Stay with your boat:

Even in calm weather, boats can capsize or turn over. If the boat turns over, stay with the boat and try to climb onto the boat as high out of the water as possible. It is easier for rescuers to see an overturned or capsized boat than a person alone in the water. Even on warm days, the water can be cold. Climb out of the water onto the boat to keep from getting too cold.


Learn to float:

Floating is a skill that is as important as swimming because it saves energy and keeps you safe until help comes. Floating should be practiced in a safe place, like a swimming pool, with an observer nearby. If you fall into a river, you should float feet first pointing downstream. This allows you to use your feet to push away from rocks, logs or other obstacles!


Swim with a friend:

Use the buddy system—never go in or near the water alone. Enter water only where there is a lifeguard present or proper supervision is provided.


Learn to rescue safely:

Accidents can happen near the water, and you should learn simple rescues of others without endangering yourself. The three ways to rescue someone are reach, throw or row.


    First REACH for the person. Be sure you hold onto someone or something

       stable and do not lean over the water.

    If you cannot reach them, THROW something out to them that will float,

       something they can hold onto that will help them stay afloat until help comes.

    If you cannot reach or throw, find an adult who can ROW out to them or go

       call 9-1-1 to get help. A raft or surfboard are examples of what to row.

    Never jump into the water to save someone. Only lifeguards or water safety

       certified people should enter the water to rescue someone.


Alcohol, drugs & boating don’t mix:

It is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. People who drink alcohol or use drugs and drive a boat can hurt themselves or someone else. Boat passengers who drink alcohol or use drugs can lose their balance and fall out of the boat. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment and slow reflexes. Other natural stressors like sun, noise, waves and wind increase the effects of alcohol and drugs.


Don’t overload your boat:

An overloaded boat can tip over or sink even when there is no wind and the water is calm. Small boats have a capacity plate that shows how many people and how much weight can safely be put in the boat. Don’t overload your boat!


     Recognize the following hazardous water and shore conditions:


      Never swim against strong or rip currents. Float until the current weakens
        and you can swim to safety.

    Uneven bottoms like holes, drop-offs and debris can cause you to lose

       your balance.

    Steep or slippery banks can cause you to fall into the water.

    Big waves can knock you off your feet.

    Stay away from canals. Canals are on private property and it is considered

       trespassing to go near them.

    Canals have steep, slippery sides and fast water.

    Drains and garbage under the water can hurt or trap you.

    Canals are for transporting water, NOT for recreation.

    Do not swim or boat in a canal!


Classroom activities can be integrated into a boating and aquatic safety lesson. Activity ideas:


    Show an appropriate AquaSMART curriculum video for your grade level.

       AquaSMART is a complimentary K-12 curriculum series that teaches children

       how to be safe in and around water. Copies of the curriculum series may
       be obtained by visiting the Online Ordering System or by calling DBW at

       (888) 326-2822.

    Invite a guest speaker from the community (e.g. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S.

       Power Squadrons, American Red Cross, lifeguards, local law enforcement

       agencies, college aquatic centers or park rangers).

    Visit www.BoatSmarter.com for more information on boating and aquatic

       safety or to download the poster contest entry form.

    Enter the 22nd Annual Safe & Wise Water Ways Poster Contest!


Click here for this year's winners.