10 Tips for Watching Fireworks from the Water


The Sea Tow Foundation offers the following advice to boaters who plan to watch 4th of July fireworks from their boats.

Many towns and cities around the country located on the ocean, a lake, a bay or a river will be firing off spectacular community fireworks displays over the water this July 4th. One of the best places to watch these spectacular shows is from the cockpit or the flybridge of a boat. But these festive holiday evening displays can cause crowded, disorienting and smoky conditions on the water. The non-profit Sea Tow Foundation for boating safety offers the following 10 tips to boaters who are thinking of taking their vessels out to watch the fireworks, in order to make sure the 4th of July celebration is safe for everyone.

Ten Tips:

  1. Designate a Sober Skipper to stay at the helm all evening and be responsible for returning the boat and its passengers safely to shore after the fireworks are over.
  2. Watch Your Weight. Don’t overload the boat with passengers. The number of seats available on board is not always the best indicator of capacity. Look for the weight capacity plate on the transom or by the helm, or look up the passenger capacity in the builder’s manual.
  3. Suit Up! Make sure everyone onboard the boat is wearing either a traditional or an inflatable life jacket that fits. Navigating at night in a crowd of other vessels amid smoke from a fireworks display can be just as dangerous as boating in stormy weather or in fog.
  4. Respect the Night. Remember that at night, visual navigation marks you rely on during the day may be invisible. Chart your route to the on-water fireworks viewing zone in advance, and use GPS-enabled electronics to help you find it, if necessary.
  5. Arms and Legs Inside the Vehicle. If you are rafting up to other boats to watch the fireworks, as you approach the raft-up, have fenders and lines ready, and tell your passengers to keep their entire body inside the boat at all times.
  6. No Shooting. Don’t bring store-bought fireworks along on the boat to fire off yourself (in some states fireworks may be illegal). Fireworks should only be lit on a flat and level surface; a boat is not stable enough because it will rock and move in the water. In addition, fiberglass is flammable, and the vessel’s engine and fuel also can create a serious fire risk when sparks and open flames are present.
  7. Don’t Cry ‘Wolf!’ Never fire emergency flares in place of fireworks. They are not intended for this use and often burn hotter and faster than fireworks. In addition, it is against the law to make a false call for help; you could face severe fines and/or jail time.
  8. Dowse Those Sparks. Keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water handy to put out any sparks that might accidentally drift over to your boat from the fireworks display.
  9. Sit Back and Relax. Don’t be in a rush to get home; let some of the boat traffic clear out before you raise anchor.
  10. Listen Up! Obey U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary designated zones and follow their orders – they are only out there to protect you!