The Essential Boat Safety Checklist

When you pull out of the dock you’re often concentrating on all the fun you’re going to have, but don’t forget about safety.

The ocean can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful and it’s up to you to make sure everyone on your vessel returns safely.

Luckily, there’s a simple checklist you can use to ensure you’re ready for anything that might happen.

Below are the equipment and procedures you need to go over before you head out on the water.

Check the Weather

Make sure you know what the weather conditions will be while you’re boating. Just because it’s calm and sunny when you leave doesn’t mean it will be that way all day. Weather can also change from place to place, so check the weather for both your starting point and your destination.

File a Float Plan

Standard safety procedures require you to file a float plan and give it to someone you trust. This should include where you’re going and what time you plan on returning. It should also have a failsafe time, which is the time at which the authorities should be notified if you haven’t returned.


Ensure you have enough life jackets for everyone on board and that they’re easily accessible. Identify anyone on board who can’t swim and make sure they’re wearing a life jacket at all times.

Safety Equipment:

Check to see if you have all of the following items, that they’re all in proper working order, and that everyone on board knows where they are:

  • Lifesling
  • Horn
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Flares

Cell Phone or Radio

Make sure you have a means of communication if there’s an accident. Most people carry cell phones these days, but there isn’t always reliable service out on the water. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a UHF/VHF radio on board. Educate all your passengers on how to use the radio in case they need to call for help.

Food and Water

If something goes wrong you may be stuck out at sea for some time, so it’s important to have some food and water handy while you wait for help.

Keep some bottled water on hand, or install a watermaker. As for food, stick to items that last a long time. Things like granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, and crackers will do just fine. Just check your food before you leave to see if anything has expired.

Manual Propelling Device

You should have some sort of manual propelling device (paddles, oars, etc.) in case of a breakdown. This ensures you’ll always have a way to get to shore. An anchor is always acceptable, as this will at least keep you in place while help is on the way.

Enter Your Home Location into Your GPS

Everyone gets lost now and then, so always enter the location of your home marina into your GPS before you leave. That way, no matter what happens you always know how to get home.

Get Your Boat Inspected

Finally, keep up with your maintenance schedule and bring your boat in for regular inspections. This allows you to catch potential issues early and get them fixed before your next trip.

Give us a call or stop by one of our locations for advice about maintenance for your boat.