Is there a good rule of thumb for number of people in a boat?

I looked on the Hull Idendification plate, but it only had the HIN and max horsepower on it.

  • 1
    This is very general, it will vary from country to country and probably even US state to US state. Can you provide some more details? What kind of boat are we talking about?
    – Pekka
    Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 19:53
  • 1
    It is very general, that's how a "rule of thumb" works.
    – Homer
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 14:06
  • @Homer -- Please make this clear. Are you asking about safety or legallity? At least put what style of hull, as both stability and laws are generally written for hull types and there will likely not be a general rule that spans all hull types. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 14:07
  • Conditions are important - Safe in a sheltered harbor is a different measure to safe in blue water.
    – user5330
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 7:14
  • This question is way to broad imho. Type of boat, type of activity, body of water, what jurisdiction are you in, etc. can change the answer considerably.
    – fgysin
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:30

3 Answers 3


The manufacture's user manual will specify the SAFE number of occupants. If the actual number is not available the rule of overall maximum weight capacity / 200lbs yields the maximum number of people. Failing that information a cross comparison of an equivalent sized boat with the same layout/ features will be a good estimate. Canoes 2-3 max row boats 2-3.

... and Never more that the number of life preservers on board.

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    In California you need a life jacket for everyone plus one throw device.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 20:58

For commercial vessels, such as ferries, most countries do have regulations which boats are assessed against, and a maximum number of passengers are defined for each boat.

There are also a number of countries where this doesn't apply, or where regulations are not enforced.

Update - removed the rest as I see now you are looking at regulations, not physical capacity


A good rule of thumb would be: Can you move around and have easy access to everything you/everyone need to manoeuvring the vessel.

  • 5
    a very dangerous assumption
    – SkipBerne
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 18:26

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