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Campfire Collective Oct 9th, 2018

Boat Capacity and Horsepower Recommendations

Family wearing lifejackets riding in a bowrider boat. Illustration.

Gross load capacity and horsepower recommendations

Be aware of the federal regulations for your boat’s engine power (horsepower) and gross load capacity (maximum weight). According to federal law, motorized boats that are less than 20 feet in length must have a capacity plate in the steering or helm area. The capacity plate is where you can you find the maximum horsepower for your boat. Here you also find the maximum weight and size of engine. Understand that the capacity recommendations for your boat are meant for boat operation in good weather conditions.

The boat capacity plate must be permanently displayed in view of the operator when the boat is underway.

Note: Coast Guard statistics indicate that capsizing is a leading cause of boating-related deaths. Prevent your boat from capsizing by understanding the recommendations on the capacity plate.

Your boat’s capacity plate will include the following information:

  • The maximum passenger weight (in lbs.) and the equivalent number of adult passengers
  • The total maximum weight (in lbs.) including the gear, the engine and the total number of persons, or the total amount of passenger weight
  • The recommended maximum horsepower capacity

Person Capacity

Some capacity plates will tell you the maximum number of people that can safely be carried on your boat. Use this information as a guideline only. The manufacturer calculates the information under the assumption that an average person’s weight is 185 lbs. However, because the individual weight of your passengers may vary, the ‘number of persons’ suggestion should remain flexible. You want to keep the water below the waterline!

Determining Your Boat’s Capacities

For mono-hulled boats that are less than 20 feet in length, boaters can use the following equation. This equation calculates the number of persons that their boat can safely carry in good weather conditions:

Boat length (ft.) x boat width (ft.) / 15 = number of people.

Get your Official North American
Boating License

The Official NASBLA and Transport Canada Boating Course, Test & License.

Get your Official North American
Boating License

The Official NASBLA and Transport Canada Boating
Course, Test & License.

Personal Watercraft Capacities

PWC acceptable loads they can carry are measured differently. Acceptable loading information depends on the size of the PWC. If there isn’t a capacity plate, make sure you reference the state laws and the manufacturer’s information in the owner’s manual.

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