Your Essential Boating Checklist

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Your Essential Boating Checklist

By: Boater's Choice Insurance
Your Essential Boating Checklist
You never know what you might see while you’re on the water. Likewise, it’s difficult to predict every scenario you might encounter when you’re boating.

Whether you plan to take a quick boat ride or an all-day excursion on the water, pre-trip preparation is key. Keep reading for basics to prepare for a boat ride.

Check the Weather

Onshore conditions can be far different than what you experience on the water. That’s why it’s important to look at the real-time weather forecast before departing the marina. Use a weather app or check the forecast online or on the radio. In addition, activate the weather app on your phone and bring along a NOAA weather radio to make sure you receive continuous updates when you are boating.

Create a Float Plan

Make sure people know where you’re headed on the water and your timetable. Create a float plan and leave it with a friend, relative, or even the marina office. A solid float plan includes the following information:
  • Description of your boat
  • How many passengers you’re bringing and their names
  • Your destination
  • The route you will be taking
  • Planned stops
  • Departure time
  • Estimated arrival time
  • Estimated return time

Check Your Required Safety Gear

Depending on the size and age of your watercraft, the U.S. Coast Guard requires specific safety equipment to be onboard when the boat is in the water. Key safety items that must be onboard include:
  • Wearable personal floatation devices (PFDs) or life jackets for each passenger
  • One throwable flotation device with line
  • Visual signaling device / distress signal (e.g., flares, strobe light)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Whistle or other sound-producing device in case the boat horn is not operating
Again, consult the USCG website for specifics on required safety gear.

Bring Your “Go Bag”

Preparation is no accident. With that in mind, always pack a watertight dry bag or “go bag,” and keep it stocked and onboard for unexpected scenarios.

Your go bag or should include some of the following basic items:
  • Plenty of drinking water to prevent dehydration
  • Handheld VHF radio
  • Flashlight
  • Pocket knife or multi-tool
  • Sunblock
  • First aid kit
  • Old school compass
  • Paper navigation maps
  • Waterproof matches
  • Signaling mirror
  • Aluminum rescue blanket
  • Power bars or some kind of shelf-stable food
  • Backup noise-making device (whistle)
  • Duct tape
  • Extra rope
  • Windbreaker
  • Towels
Pro tip: Don’t take any items out of your bag to use at home as you may forget to put them back in your bag! 

Take a Boater Training Course

Preparation is one of the best ways to remain calm in an unexpected situation. A boater safety course can help you know before you go: Learning boater safety steps and practicing how to use the equipment in an emergency.

Make Sure Your Insurance is Adequate and Up-to-Date

Knowing your watercraft insurance includes the right amount of coverage provides peace of mind while you’re on the water. If you have any questions about your current coverage, call a marine insurance expert.