Chapter 1: The Basics of Your Boat

The Capacity Plate

Every boat owner should know the type of engine which powers one's vessel and the class one's vessel measures in.

As important as it is to know the class of one's boat, based on size, it is equally vital that one understands the maximum person capacity and maximum gross load of the vessel. One is legally required to be within these parameters whenever operating a vessel.

In fact, these determinations are so significant, the Federal Law mandates all powerboats, under twenty feet, carry a "capacity plate," which lists the vessel's maximum capacity, load, and engine power (for vessels with outboard engines). These plates can be found near the front of the vessel, usually adjacent to the steering area.

Boat Capacity Plate

If one's vessel doesn't have a capacity plate one can use the following calculation to determine the maximum capacity manually:

Number of People = vessel length (ft.) x vessel width (ft.) / 15.

So, for example, if a boat measures twelve feet in length and four feet in width, one would multiply those values, equaling forty-eight. Then, divide that value by fifteen to give one a maximum capacity of three people.

The other value to remember is a vessel's Maximum Gross Load. This is the total weight a boat can safely handle and can be found on the capacity plate. Keep in mind that equipment and fuel also contribute t that weight, not just passengers. Ensure that you never exceed your maximum person capacity and maximum gross load before heading out.

The capacity plate indicates another valuable piece of information, the maximum horsepower. This restriction applies to the engine, and cannot be exceeded. If the capacity plate does not list the vessel's maximum horsepower, consult the manufacturer.

Finally, if a vessel is a personal watercraft (PWC) or does not have a capacity plate, reference the owner's manual to determine maximum gross load and maximum capacity. One should also check for any additional laws and regulations regarding maximum capacity and load specific to your state.