How Can Noise and Vibration Affect You When Operating a Boat?

How Can Noise and Vibration Affect You When Operating a Boat

For most boating enthusiasts, going on a boat ride is simply the best way to get rid of boredom and fatigue.

However, many people still fail to experience the peace and tranquility they seek in a boating trip. Instead, they come back feeling even more tired and distracted.  

But isn’t boating a great pastime for improving mental health? 

Well, boating is indeed a beneficial recreational activity, but this could change if you don’t know how to deal with the continuous sound and vibration produced by a running boat. 

Not only do the high noise level make you feel tired, but it also clouds your judgment, limiting your ability to control the boat well.

If you have a motorized boat, you might be wondering how to keep safe from the loud noise and vibration. 

But you don’t have to worry about how boating noise and vibration affect you anymore as you have come to the right page. 

In this article, we will discuss how noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat and show you how to deal with it to ensure safe captaining. 

But before we get into that, let’s find out where the noise and vibration come from. 

Where Do the Noise and Vibration Come From When Operating a Boat

Just like with any other noisy machinery, it can wear you out over time when riding a loud boat. 

The noise and vibration can inhibit proper judgment in some cases, making it quite risky to operate the vessel. 

It becomes even worse when you add the effects of the scowl and heat from the scorching sun on a typical summer day. 

In such cases, it’s extremely dangerous for both the captain and passengers since it’s hard to control the boat’s motion. It could lead to accidents, capsizing, and worse, deaths. 

The leading cause of the noise and vibration is obviously the motorized operation. Other significant causes of noise on a running boat include, wind noise, and water hitting the hull. 

Engine Noise 

Engine is the number one factor that makes a boat noisy when cruising. Regardless of the type of engine your boat has, it will still have some noticeable noise and vibration. 

The engine noise is inevitable as even today’s quieter engines featured on varied vessels still produce sound that affects users. 

Wind Noise

If you run a boat with an open helm, like pontoon boats, the wind will constantly hit the helm and result in noise when the boat is in motion.

The intensity of the wind noise depends on how fast you ride your boat. If you cruise at high speeds, the noise and vibration levels will definitely increase. 

Water Noise

When the water hits the hull as the boat sails, the resistance creates vibration and significant noise levels. This is then felt throughout the boat. 

And like the wind noise, the amount of noise and vibration caused depends on how fast you sail. High speed means a higher noise level. 

While the type of water body you are cruising on may not directly affect you in terms of noise, deeper and wavy waters can make it hard for you to control the boat. 


Damaged propellers are also a significant cause of horrible boating noise that can affect you when operating the vessel. 

Keep in mind that the propeller blades sit exposed in the water, and they are susceptible to damage, especially if they are too old. 

How Loud Boats Affect You When Sailing

How Loud Boats Affect You When Sailing

Some people claim to get used to the boating noise over time, but this is not always the case for many people. Here is how the noise and vibration affect you when operating a watercraft. 

Reduced Concentration Span

In 2019, the US Coast Guard recorded 4,168 boating accidents that resulted in 613 deaths and more than 2,500 injuries. Most of these accidents were brought about by inattentive boat captains. 

Boat operators need to be on the lookout for any weather changes, approaching obstacles, and any unsafe conditions when maneuvering their vessels on the water. 

However, sometimes the boating noise and vibration affect attention span and can inhibit the captain’s focus. 

When you are tired and have lower concentration levels when operating a boat, you may not hear essential boating alarms and hazard sensors. 

No matter how careful you try to be, you may not be vigilant enough to captain your rattling vessel for a long time without causing an accident. 

Poor Judgement 

Limited attention when operating a boat means that you can easily make poor decisions, especially when you spend more than four hour shifts on the wheel. 

The US Coast Guard limits watches for boat operators to four hour shifts on the water to protect them from exhaustion and poor judgment. 

If you can’t think straight and make the right decision to control your vessel in the water, you might fall victim to a hazardous boating accident. 

Hearing Loss

Did you know that you could easily lose your hearing when exposed to noise above 90 dB for a prolonged period of time? 

Well, you risk losing your hearing if the noise produced in your boat exceeds the set legal limits.

And it’s not uncommon for rattling boats to reach hazardous levels of up to 110 decibels, making you susceptible to deafness. 

That’s why the US Coast Guard limits watches to four hours. They have also set boat noise law and set a limit of 86 dB for all powered boats. But this may vary a little bit by state. 

Some states have set the maximum noise for a powerboat to be 90 decibels while others go as low as 70 decibels. 

So, depending on the state you are in, you may end up getting a ticket for breaking the noise limit laws. 

Troubled Communication 

Troubled Communication

As reported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), sound levels affect how we communicate. 

When exposed to high noise levels of 80 dB and above, we are forced to amplify our voice to be heard. Sometimes we may have to shout for other people on board to hear us. 

When operating in a noisy area where the sound exceeds 95 dB, we cannot be heard unless we move closer to the person we want to talk to. 

Generally, a boat’s idle running speed produces about 60 decibels of noise, but it can sometimes reach 100 decibels when the vessel runs at high speeds. 

This makes it quite challenging to communicate with other people on board, reducing the operator’s awareness of the surroundings. 

Bone and Muscle Damages

If you ride a rattling boat regularly, the loud noise and vibration affect your body and damage your bones, joints, and back. It can also harm your muscles, tendons, and connective tissues. 

The fragile connective tissues struggle to keep your back aligned. 

Moreover, exposure to boating vibration for an extended time can overwork your body muscles and lead to pain, discomfort, swelling, or even high blood pressure. 


When exposed to constant noise and vibration for long hours, you may have difficulties falling asleep. 

Lack of sleep further leads to lower concentration levels and unnecessary headaches. This will affect your ability to safely operate the boat. 

Insomnia can also lead to other mental issues like anxiety, depression, and irritation. 

And since boating is done for pleasure, you won’t really love the experience. The loud noise and constant vibration will have many negative effects, which might outweigh the beneficial aspects of boating. 

You Could Drown 

The correct answer to the common question, ‘how can noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat?’ can be simply described in three words- you could drown.

See, a running motor boat’s vibration and noise levels can damage your inner ear that actually controls your body’s balance.  

This makes you prone to falls when operating the boat. You also risk falling overboard and drowning. And if there is no one else on the boat, your ship may end up capsizing as well. 

What is the Right Noise and Vibration Limits for Boats?

What is the Right Noise and Vibration Limits for Boats

There are no specific noise and vibration limits set for boats as laws vary by state.  But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set legal limits for working environments. 

OSHA highlights that workers should not be exposed to noise levels exceeding 90 dB on a working day. If the noise level exceeds 90 dB, the working time should be halved. 

It’s important to pay attention to this limit as higher noise levels and vibrations could lead to many health issues like insomnia, high blood pressure, muscle tension, and many more. 

The US Coast Guard limits watches to four-hours. Being on the wheel for longer than four hours could lead to fatigue and reduced concentration. 

If you are unsure how much noise your boat produces, you can invest in decibel checkers to measure the sound. Then measure the noise levels at both idle running speed and when the ship runs at high speed.

For boats with higher noise levels than the recommended limit, the best way to keep safe is to reduce the amount of time you spend on the wheel. 

If possible, you can sail for about two to three hours, then stretch and rest to ensure that you remain fresh and alert whenever you are on the helm. 

Solutions to Noise and Vibrations in Boats

Solutions to Noise and Vibrations in Boats

Now that you know what causes bad sound and vibration on a boat and how it can affect you, here are some practical solutions to help you deal with the boating stressors: 

Soundproof Your Boat to Reduce Noise Levels 

While soundproofing may not necessarily eliminate all the annoying sound and vibration, it helps control the sources, ensuring that fewer decibels get to the captain and passengers. 

You can use elastic materials when mounting the engine to separate the fittings and pipes. The elastic materials will absorb most of the sound and vibration produced, and the motorboat runs. 

Along with the elastic materials, you can also use harmonic balancers to reduce the prop shaft movement. 

Limit the Amount of Time You Spend on the Helm

If you are a boating fanatic, you may be tempted to stay on the helm for a long time, having fun in the water. 

However, this isn’t always a good idea, especially if you don’t have someone to help you run the boat when you get tired. The loud noise and constant vibration affect your in various adverse ways.

No matter how comfortable it feels to ride a boat, you shouldn’t exceed four hours on the helm to avoid overworking your brain and ears. 

It’s important to take breaks after three to four hours even when you don’t feel tired. Without the fatigue, you’ll be able to pay full attention and have better control of the power boat. 

Maintain Your Boat Regularly

As mentioned earlier, sometimes the noise levels of a motorized boat can increase due to various damages. It could be some loose bolts or even a misaligned shaft line. 

So, it’s crucial to maintain and lubricate the various parts of your boat to ensure lower noise levels and smooth running. 



Q: How Loud is a Boat Engine?

A: Boat engines can produce sound and vibration of about 65 to 110 decibels. Most of the sound reaches the captain and passengers through the hull by vibrations. 

Even today’s quieter engines still produce some noise that travels through the hull, affecting those on board. 

As the engine noise travels through the hull, it gets amplified, and everything on board vibrates. 

When sailing on loud boats, you risk losing your hearing. It also limits your ability to control the boat, which may lead to accidents and damages. 

If you operate a rattling boat, it’s important to keep safe and avoid overworking your brain and ears. 

Q: What Are Boating Stressors?

A: Boating stressors are some natural factors that make you feel fatigued while on the water. 

This includes exposure to the boating sound and vibration, hot sun, wind, glare, and waves. 

Boating stressors affect captains and passengers, making them tire faster when cruising. 

And while many boaters underestimate the effects of boating stressors, they often come out of the motorized boat feeling weak and extremely tired. 

Sure, the noise, vibration, heat, or even glare won’t kill you, but they may rapidly weaken your body and mind. This way, you won’t be able to control the boat properly, and it could lead to a fatal boating calamity. 

Q: How Loud is a Speed Boat?

A: Speed boats come with incredibly powerful engines that tend to make the loudest noise in the water. 

Even so, this doesn’t mean that any kind of noise level produced by a high performance speed boat is okay. Sometimes the engine may have issues that cause too continuous sound and vibration. 

If you own a speed boat, you should regularly maintain and check the engine to ensure that it doesn’t produce unhealthy boat sound that can affect you when operating. 

Q: What Are Some of the Natural Stressors that Make You Fatigued Boating?

A: Some of the natural stressors that make you feel tired when boating include the heat and glare from the sun, waves, boating sounds, and vibrations. 

Boating sounds usually result from engine noise, wind noise, damaged propellers, waves, bent shaft lines, and worn-out cutlass bearings. 

When the water hits the hull, resistance creates vibration, which can also affect you when operating a boat. 

If your boat has high noise levels that give you fatigue anytime you sail instead of making you feel relaxed, you need to check and fix the problem as soon as you can. 

Wrap Up

Wrap Up

As you can see, high noise and vibration levels affect you in many ways when operating a boat. And when running a motorboat, everyone on board is likely to hear the noise and vibration produced. 

Depending on the vibration and noise levels, the captain may lose control of the boat with prolonged exposure. 

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce the unpleasant sound and vibration on your boat and keep safe when having fun on the water. 

You can soundproof your ship and ensure regular maintenance, so there are no rattling parts as you cruise. 

Limiting your time on the helm will also ease the effects and promote healthy boating. 

If you want to take your marine education tests, I hope you’ve learned something from this article. Good luck and enjoy boating responsibly!

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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