Safety Afloat has been developed to promote boating and boating safety and to
set standards for safe unit activity afloat. Before a BSA group may engage in
an excursion, expedition, or trip on the water (canoe, raft, sailboat,
motorboat, rowboat, floating in an inner tube, or other craft), adult leaders
for such activity must complete Safety Afloat Training, No. 34159, have a
commitment card, No. 34242, with them, and be dedicated to full compliance with
all ninepoints of Safety Afloat.
1. Qualified Supervision
All activity afloat must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult
age 21 or older who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the
well-being and safety of the children in his or her care, who is experienced and
qualified in the particular watercraft skills and equipment involved in the
activity, and who is committed to compliance with the nine points of BSA Safety
Afloat. One such supervisor is required for each 10 people, with a minimum of
two adults for any one group. At least one supervisor must be age 21 or older,
and the remaining supervisors must be age 18 or older. All supervisors must
complete BSA Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense training and rescue training
for the type of watercraft to be used in the activity, and at least one must be
trained in CPR. It is strongly recommended that all units have at least one
adult or older youth member currently trained as a BSA Lifeguard to assist in
the planning and conducting of all activity afloat.
For Cub Scouts: The ratio of adult supervisors to participants is one to
2. Physical Fitness
All persons must present evidence of fitness by a complete health history
from a physician, parent, or legal guardian. Adjust all supervision, discipline,
and protection to anticipate any risks associated with individual health
conditions. In the event of any significant health conditions, a medical
evaluation by a physician should be required by the adult leader.
3. Swimming Ability
A person who has not been classified as a "swimmer" may ride as a passenger
in a rowboat or motorboat with an adult swimmer, or in a canoe, raft, or
sailboat with an adult who is trained as a lifeguard or a lifesaver by a
recognized agency. In all other circumstances, the person must be a swimmer to
participate in an activity afloat. Swimmers must pass this test:
Jump feetfirst into water over your head. Swim 75
yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following strokes:sidestroke,
breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; then swim 25 yards using an easy resting
backstroke. The 100 yards must be swum continuously and include at least one
sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest by floating. This qualification test
should be renewed annually.
4. Personal Flotation Equipment
Properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs)
must be worn by all persons engaged in activity on the open water (rowing,
canoeing, sailing, boardsailing, motorboating, waterskiing, rafting, tubing,
kayaking, and surfboarding). Type II and III PFDs are recommended.
5. Buddy System
All activity afloat necessitates using the buddy system. Not only must every
individual have a buddy, but every craft should have a "buddy boat" when on the
6. Skill Proficiency
All participants in activity afloat must be trained and experienced in
watercraft handling skills, safety, and emergency procedures. (a) For unit
activity on white water, all participants must complete special training by a
BSA Aquatics Instructor or qualified whitewater specialist. (b) Powerboat
operators must be able to meet requirements for the Motorboating merit badge or
equivalent. (c) Except for whitewater and powerboat operation as noted above,
either a minimum of three hours' training and supervised practice or meeting
requirements for "basic handling tests" is required for all float trips or
open-water excursions using unpowered craft. (d) Motorized personal watercraft,
such as the Jet Ski? and SeaDoo?, are not authorized for use in Scouting
aquatics, and their use should not be permitted in or near BSA program
For Cub Scouts:Canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and rafting for Cub Scouts
(including Webelos Scouts) are to be limited to council/district events on flat
water ponds or controlled lake areas free of powerboats and sailboats. Prior to
recreational canoeing and kayaking, Cub Scouts are to be instructed in basic
handling skills and safety practices.
- Float Plan — Obtain current maps and information about the waterway
to be traveled. Know exactly where the unit will "put in" and "pull out" and
what course will be followed. Travel time should be estimated generously.
Review the plan with others who have traveled the course recently.
- Local Rules — Determine which state and local regulations are
applicable, and follow them. Get written permission to use or cross private
- Notification — File the float plan with parents or participants and
a member of the unit committee. File the float plan with the local council
office when traveling on running water. Check in with all those who should be
notified when returning.
- Weather — Check the weather forecast just before setting out, and
keep an alert weather eye. Bring all craft ashore when rough weather
- Contingencies — Planning must identify possible emergencies and
other circumstances that could force a change of plans. Appropriate
alternative plans must be developed for each.
For Cub Scouts:Cub Scout canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and rafting do not
include "trips" or "expeditions" and are not to be conducted on running water
(i.e., rivers or streams); therefore, some procedures are inapplicable. Suitable
weather requires clear skies, no appreciable wind, and warm air and water.
All equipment must be suited to the craft, to water conditions, and to the
individual; must be in good repair; and must satisfy all state and federal
requirements. Spare equipment or repair materials must be carried. Appropriate
rescue equipment must be available for immediate use.
All participants should know, understand, and respect the rules and
procedures for safe unit activity afloat. The applicable rules should be
presented and learned prior to the outing, and should be reviewed for all
participants at the water's edge just before the activity begins. When Scouts
know and understand the reasons for the rules, they will observe them. When
fairly and impartially applied, rules do not interfere with the fun. Rules for
safety, plus common sense and good judgment, keep the fun from being interrupted
Note: For cruising vessels (excluding rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and rafts,
but including sailboats and powerboats greater than 20 feet long) used in
adult-supervised unit activities by a chartered Venturing crew/ship specializing
in watercraft operations, or used in adult-supervised program activity in
connection with any high-adventure program or other activity under the direct
sponsorship and control of the National Council, the standards and procedures in
the Sea Scout Manual may be substituted for the Safety Afloat standards.
Reference: Safety Afloat, No. 34368 and in the Online Learning