Do It Safe, Do It Right

Copywrite 2005 by Boat-Project.Com

When improving your boat, sooner or later, you are going to come across the topic of safety. You always want to ensure you do not create an unsafe condition while doing your favorite boat project. The idea of keeping your boat safe should always be at the forefront as you go about constructing your project.

The scope of the boat projects that I have written is to simply provide a catalyst to get your idea thought process going. My expectation is for you to discover for yourself all of the details of what needs to be done, and make a self-assessment as to your skills and abilities. Only then, knowing how to proceed safely should you perform the task.

At least for me, part of doing a boat project in the first place, other than making an improvement to the boat, is the satisfaction of learning something new. Wouldn’t the knowledge that you maintained your boat’s safety be of comfort if you could find out for yourself what those safety requirements were? That’s my concept of a catalyst.

Keeping your boat safe is not all that difficult (in fact, its mandatory), but you have to know what is safe and what is not.

The US Coast Guard publishes a set of minimum safety requirements, and can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations. The regulation of interest to private boat owners is 33CFR183 – Boats and Associated Equipment.

This regulation can be found on-line, on the internet by using a search engine on "33CFR183".

However, the US Coast Guard also makes available two publications:

  1. The Boat Builder’s Handbook
  2. Safety Standards for Backyard Boat Builders.

Both publications help to explain the regulation, and are also available on-line on the internet. The regulation and publications cover the following safety topics:

While the scope of the publications is geared towards the complete construction of a boat, they also apply anytime you make a change in these areas of the boat.

In "The Boat Builder’s Handbook", the intended audience is the boat builder. Even though it is written with the professional in mind, I have found this publication to actually be written quite well, and anyone contemplating a boat project should have no problem understanding this document. The self-assessment to be made here is that the ability to understand this publication should determine whether or not the project should be attempted.

In "Safety Standards for Backyard Boat Builders", the intended audience is the individual boat owner that might want to construct their own boat. It is a simplified explanation of the federal requirements for the non-professional boat builder – and somewhat of a less-technical version of the Boat Builder’s Handbook. Both publications provide the same basic information, and when you do that boat project, you are responsible to ensure that you do the job in accordance with US Coast Guard safety standards.

The US Coast Guard publications detail the minimum standards required for safety in a boat, and not necessarily best-practices. To determine what these are, there are other documents that can be used, such as those available from the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC). The ABYC publishes a set of recommended practices that can be purchased on-line. While these practices are not regulatory, they are highly recommended.



Excerpts of these practices can sometimes be found in boat how-to books, in the technical sections of boating goods manufacturer’s catalogs, or their websites. However, the risk in using these sources is obtaining complete and current information.

So in conclusion, before attempting any boat project, be sure you comply with what the US Coast Guard regulations require for you to do the job safely.


  1. Boat Builder’s Handbook (
  2. Backyard Boat Builder (
  3. American Boat and Yacht Council (

Good Luck;

The Boat-Project.Com team

Home    Return