Safety Afloat

Safety Afloat

The troop is going canoeing on Nims Lake at S-F Scout Ranch in a little over a week, so one of the scouts lead a Safety Afloat seminar at the last meeting.

Safety Afloat is the list of rules for boating activities laid out in the Guide to Safe Scouting. For a boating activity to be an official BSA activity, those guidelines must be followed. A good practice is to present the Saftey Afloat guidelines at a meeting before the activity. Then present them again at the waterfront before embarking on the boating outing. A handout can help scouts when presenting this information, since the complete rules in the Guide to Safe Scouting are very long.

Safety Afloat

Use this information as a supplement to a Safety Afloat seminar. See the BSA Guide to Safe Scouting for the complete list of rules for Safety Afloat.

Qualified Supervision

  • Supervisor must be age 21 or older
  • Supervisor must understand and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of those in his or her care
  • Supervisor must be trained in and committed to compliance with the nine points of BSA Safety Afloat.
  • Supervisor must be skilled in the safe operation of the craft for the specific activity, knowledgeable in accident prevention, and prepared for emergency situations.

Personal Health Review

  • Each scout and adult should present a health history form
  • Forms should be reviewed by the supervisor and any potential risks must be addressed.

Swimming Ability

  • You must be classified as a “swimmer” (by passing the BSA swimmer test) to participate in boating activities.
  • If you are not a swimmer, you may ride in a rowboat or motorboat with an adult who is classified as a swimmer or you may ride in a canoe, raft, or sailboat with an adult certified as a lifeguard or lifesaver.

Life Jackets

  • You must wear a PFD (personal flotation device) when participating in boating activities.

Buddy System

  • You must have a buddy.
  • Every boat must have a “buddy boat”.

Skill Proficiency

  • You must know how to handle your boat and be familiar with safety and emergency procedures.


  •  Plan ahead. Develop a float plan with your schedule and itinerary.
  • Include contingency plans in case conditions change.
  • Be aware of the weather.
  • Know the local regulations.
  • Share your float plan with parents and local authorities.


  • Your equipment must be in good repair
  • Your equipment must be appropriate for the type of craft and the water conditions.
  • Equipment must be appropriate for the people using it.


  • Rules are not meant to be broken.
  • Scouts must follow the directions of the supervisor.

One Response to Safety Afloat

  1. Ryan Hobbs September 28, 2016 at 9:26 AM #

    Are you able to clarify or provide citation of this requirement of certified lifeguard or lifesaver? I found no such requirement per BSA policies.

    “If you are not a swimmer, you may ride in a rowboat or motorboat with an adult who is classified as a swimmer or you may ride in a canoe, raft, or sailboat with an adult certified as a lifeguard or lifesaver.”

    In the guide to safe scouting II. under 3.Swimming Ability, it states clearly: “They may paddle or ride in a canoe or other paddle craft with an adult swimmer skilled
    in that craft as a buddy. They may ride as part of a group on a motorboat or
    sailboat operated by a skilled adult.”

    There is no mention that the said adult must be certified as such a lifeguard or lifesaver. I would see that such an additional requirement, would greatly impact many such activities, especially with Cub Scouts where not many boys would be classified as “Swimmer” level. While perhaps all should be, not many adults are classified and certified as lifesaver or life

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