According to US Search and Rescue statistics, if you are taking five people for a ride in your boat one of them will be nervous and apprehensive about their decision to go out with you in your boat. Not only will a short 'briefing' talk prior to departing help relax that passenger, but in my opinion it adds four additional benefits.
The four benefits of a short pre-departure talk to your passengers are:
1) A person cannot be nervous and have fun at the same time. Reduce their nervousness by pointing out that your boat has ample safety equipment. This will help the apprehensive passenger feel more comfortable.
2) By letting everyone know what safety equipment you have onboard and where it is located, you improve your chances of successfully addressing any real emergencies that could occur. For example, if a person should fall overboard, chances are that one of your passengers will recall you telling them where the throw cushion is located.
3) Raising the subject of boat safety items gives passengers a chance to ask questions. And usually, they do.
4) Telling others where safety items are located is a procedural check that you actually have that equipment onboard, and its a reminder to yourself where to find it. This is all part of a good pre-trip checklist.
Here is an example of a passenger pre-departure chat:
"Hi folks. With the good weather, we don't expect any problems, but just as a safety reminder here are a couple of important points to remember about this boat.
We keep a throw cushion here behind this seat. It will help recover someone that may fall into the water. The line attached to it will help you pull a person in the water back to the boat. To easily get into the boat from the water, there is a boarding ladder located right here. We have a push to talk VHF radio right here, but in these waters a cell phone works fine and you can just dial 911, the same as you would onshore. If you want to hail another boat, the horn button is right here on the helm, or you can wave your arms to the side --- like this. A first aid kit is kept in this locker. We have two fire extinguishers on this boat -- one here and one beside the helm. Be sure and locate a grab handle that is close to you and you can grab it if I tell you we are going to hit a bump. In this floor locker is a boat hook and a paddle. Up in the bow locker, we have a bailing bucket and an anchor. We even have blankets onboard, should anyone get chilly, and there is sunscreen if you didn't bring any. To stay hydrated, this cooler has several cold bottles of water. Our chart for these waters is right here, should you care to follow along where we are going. Very importantly, this handy orange bag contains life jackets that simply pull over your head. Would anyone feel more comfortable if they put one on before we go?"
If you read this pre-departure chat from a checklist, you won't forget anything, and it should only take a minute of everyone's time.
Performing this simple safety check ensures everyone is prepared for a fun ride, and now you have a crew that is able to help in an emergency. Your boat is not an airplane, but as you know, airlines perform a similar pre-departure talk for exactly the same reasons.