Properly Loading Your Boat

The Coast Guard requires all single-hulled boats of less than 20 feet in length to have a capacity plate, installed where it is visible from the operator’s station. Since most boats in the U. S. are less than 20 feet in length, boaters need to know what it says and why.

Capacity plate showing maximum horsepower and poundsThe capacity plate tells you the maximum number of people or carrying weight in pounds, and the maximum horsepower recommended for the boat. Overloading your boat, either in weight or in power, can be fatal.


Do not exceed the maximum capacity as shown on the boat’s capacity plate.

A motor larger than recommended will make the stern too heavy and can cause the boat to flip. The transom will ride too low in the water and you could be swamped by your own wake or a passing boat’s wake. Your boat will not sit properly in the water and will be difficult to handle.

If there is no such label or plate on your boat, use the formula “number of people= (length of boat)times (width of boat)divided by 15”.

When you’re loading your small boat at the dock, have someone stand in the center part of the boat while you hand things into the boat to them. Don’t step or jump into a small boat loaded down with the ice chest, soda, and snacks.

Too many people (and/or gear) will also cause the boat to become unstable. Always balance the load so that your boat maintains proper trim. Too much weight to one side or the other will cause the boat to list and increase the chance of taking on water. Too much weight in the bow causes the boat to plow through the water, and too much weight in the stern will create a large wake. All of these situations make the boat difficult to handle and susceptible to swamping.

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Filed under Boat Operation, Boating News, Boating Safety

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