Taking the whole family out on the lake can make for a fun day, or even weekend. That said, there are certain precautions that you will need to follow to ensure that everyone stays safe on the water. The tips below will help ensure your fun family boating on Lake Michigan.

Know the Life Jacket Laws

The State of Illinois requires boaters under age 13 to wear life jackets while aboard any watercraft under 26 feet in length. Children under 13 are required to wear life jackets at all times while the boat is underway, unless they are below deck in an enclosed cabin. While boaters over the age of 13 are not required to wear life jackets, it is a good idea to bring a life jacket for each boater. As you know, Lake Michigan is deep, and waters can get extremely choppy. We recommend that boaters of all ages wear life jackets while on deck, especially in rough weather.

Know Who Can Operate the Boat

It is also important to know what Illinois law says about who can operate the boat. In short: no one under the age of 10 is permitted to operate a boat, or any personal watercraft.  Children ages 10 to 12 may operate a boat under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian, or an adult who has been designated by the parent/guardian. Children ages 12-17 may operate a boat without a parent or guardian’s direct supervision if (and only if) they have taken a boating safety course and possess a Boating Safety Certificate accepted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Information about these courses can be found at https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/safety/Pages/BoatingSafety.aspx. Boating safety courses can be helpful for all family members.

Be Mindful of the Weather

The saying in the Chicago area is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” There are times when it seems like we experience all four seasons in one week. That is why boaters in this region need to be especially vigilant about the weather. Even if your little ones are excited about a boat trip that you have been planning for weeks, you may have to cancel if the weather is too stormy, windy, or cold. Hypothermia is a serious threat on Lake Michigan, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Keep Your Boat Properly Maintained

A boat that has not been properly maintained is an unsafe boat. To keep you and your family safe on the water, you will need to bring your boat to a service provider in the Chicago area for routine maintenance. Companies like Larsen Marine https://www.larsenmarine.com/ can ensure that your boat is safe for your whole family. We also recommend keeping a maintenance checklist, so that you can keep track of the work that needs done on your boat. Your maintenance checklist should look something like this: https://www.larsenmarine.com/service/boat-maintenance-checklist/. Following these tips will allow your family to enjoy your boat for years to come.