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

how do noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat

How do noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat?

I’m sure you’re looking for the right answer to this question. Maybe you’re reviewing for a license exam on Boat Ed or on a local boating license certification course. Well worry not, because you’ve come to the right place.

But before we get down to an in-depth analysis of the topic, let’s get a few things cleared up first.

Noise and vibration are technically one and the same. Sound is the result of vibrations in the air and is picked up by our ears.

We have music which is a sound we’d all enjoy listening to. But noise is the harmful type of sound, either because it doesn’t sound great, like metal grating on metal, or is physically destructive in the case of deafening engine noise and can cause permanent hearing damage.

On the other hand, vibration on the human body is a stressor that can cause fatigue. Not to mention that vibration of certain mechanical parts that aren’t meant to be vibrating, will cause noise and this would be your first tell-tale sign of a potential issue your boat might be facing.

How do noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat?

Noise and vibration affect you in subtle ways, sure you can handle them for the first few minutes but as time goes by, you’ll start to feel nauseous, which will lead to exhaustion, a feeling of sea sickness and loss of concentration.

Subconsciously you’ll force yourself to focus and this leads to unnecessary tension, increased heart rate, and blood pressure levels, this in turn will lead to nausea and it becomes a cycle that increases the risk of accident. Not to mention the risk of permanent hearing damage and muscle pain.

What Are the Limits Noise and Vibration on A Boat Should Be?

Tolerable noise levels depend on the industry and occupation being handled by a worker but according to the OSHA, for an 8-hour work day, one should only be subject to a maximum of 90 dBA and as a boat operator we can use this value and make sure we stay under it.

Vibration on the other hand differs from one boat to another, and as long as the vibration isn’t causing the operator too much discomfort while piloting the boat, it should be okay.

Do note that this is under the assumption that the boat is in optimal condition and that the vibrations felt are under normal circumstances such as the engine running.

Where Does Noise and Vibration Come From On a Boat?

Noise and vibration come from multiple sources which we can narrow down to two types.


This type of noise and vibration as the name implies is mechanical in nature and comes from the boat itself. The main source of these stressors come from the engine as it is the loudest and most mechanically powerful device on your vessel, followed by the transmission, the propellers and any other motorized sources such as automated sails or hydraulic rudder control.

The important part here is that the noise and vibration that comes from the boat. Due to the mechanical nature of these systems, we can only reduce the sound and vibration that reaches the operator but we cannot entirely get rid of it.

A special case would be the loud engines or intermittent honking of horns of another boat within auditory distance.


These are the types of noise and vibration that come from sources other than the boat itself. Parties and social gatherings on deck with music and dancing, can make people as its source.

Wind hitting the sails or having the boat move at a high speed can also be a potential source, and so does water and waves hitting the hull. The motion of the boat when under a barrage of small waves can also be considered vibration.

Though they may not be directly impacting the operator especially when in a closed environment, these sensory inputs can prove to be distracting and can cause fatigue during boat operation.

How To Keep Yourself Safe from Noise and Vibration While Operating a Boat?

Although keeping yourself completely safe is impossible, we can reduce the risk by using prevention and control.


The best way to reduce these things is by designing the boat around them. Isolating the operator in their own cabin and adding layers of protection between them and the sources.

Having your own closed cabin when operating a boat is a huge boon as it isolates you from most sources of noise and vibration, but that may not always be the case which brings us to the next topic.


Controlling the noise and vibration from their sources such as checking all the fittings and maintaining the boat should be a solid first step. Adding some isolation material to these sources can help as well.


The takeaway from all this is that noise and vibration on their own is neither fatal nor dangerous, however prolonged exposure to them will lead to a multitude of more serious problems when left unattended and this is how noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat.

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