The Ultimate Boating Checklist

About 71 percent of Earth's surface is covered in water, so shouldn't you be out exploring that water?

Boating is one of the most enjoyable ways to relax and enjoy the natural wonders of our world. The open air, the misty breeze, the sun shining down on you and your loved ones, it's all part of the magic of boating. 

It's also one of the best ways to enjoy yourself as social distancing becomes normalized. Many people would agree with that as recreational boat sales reached an all-time high in 2020 for the first time in 13 years. 

So a boating checklist to ensure your adventures on the high seas and lakes are safe is more important than ever. 

If you have no idea where to begin your boating pre-departure checklist then you need to read this. At Freedom Boat Club we're passionate about creating the perfect hassle-free recreational boating experience for everyone.

Whether you're new to boating or a seasoned sailor, taking the precautions for a safe and easy boat trip should be your top priority before you set sail. 

Read on to find out what you should consider and check before taking your boat cruise. 

Before You Board the Boat

There are a few things you should check before you even board your boat for a fun day of sailing.

Make sure to check the weather for the day you plan to board your boat. Even if the weather has been fair lately, the weather is unpredictable and the last thing you want to run into is a surprise storm while you're out on the water.

There are phone apps that will continuously update you on current and future weather conditions. You can also tune into a radio station for weather updates or check the news on your local station. 

Make sure you have reliable nautical maps and charts that are updated. Study maps of the area so you have an idea of the land and water layout beforehand.

It's a good idea to let a friend or relative know where you will be sailing and when you plan to return in case of an emergency.

You will also want to inspect the outside of the boat before you leave to make sure everything is in working condition. Even if someone has already done it for you, it doesn't hurt to double-check. 

Observe the outside of the boat for any signs of cracks or damage. Check the electrical system and make sure all lights are working properly, even if you won't be sailing at night. Check that there is no fuel leaking from the boat's tank.

Note the boat's oil level and inspect the engine area for any leaks. Check the fuel level and keep in mind that you will need 1/3 of a tank to depart, 1/3 to return, and you always want at least 1/3 in reserve. Make sure to learn the locations where you can refill if need be. 

Communication Is Key

If your boat is equipped with a communication system it's important to make sure it's in working order before you leave. Test and retest it to make sure it's working and that you can reach someone on land if you need to. 

If your boat has a VHF marine radio, you can tune into channel 16 to conduct a "radio test" and, if everything is in working order, you will receive an answer.

You are also able to make distress calls on the same channel. A VHF system is best if you are only traveling a short distance, no more than 10 miles offshore. 

If you are traveling further out on the water, have an MF/HF radiotelephone with you. With this, you will be able to receive high seas marine weather warnings. 

Make sure all cell phones are fully charged. If possible, bring a portable charger with you as well. Write down a list of emergency and important telephone numbers you would need in case of an emergency and store it where it will remain dry.

Read the High Frequency Radiotelephone Channels website to check which frequencies you can use to connect to someone on land.

Equipment Checklist

It will put you and your passengers at ease to know that you have checked to make sure that all necessary equipment is on board and in working condition before you leave. 

Life jackets for everyone on board should always be present, easily accessible, and fit everyone correctly. If there are children on the boat make sure that they have a life jacket that is adjusted for their size before you set sail. 

If your life jackets are inflatable make sure they are in working order and able to inflate before you leave. 

Emergency flares should also be available and in working condition. Make sure to check that any flashlights or headlamps are working and provide a strong enough light. Bring extra batteries in case the current batteries die on you.

There should also always be a fire extinguisher on board that is kept near high-risk areas, like the engine or kitchen equipment if your boat has a kitchen. Read the instructions on the fire extinguisher before you leave so you know how to use it if the time comes. 

It's very important to check your boat's anchor. The anchor should be in the correct place and position, ready to be anchored. Its chain should be intact and sturdy. Double-check to make sure that the end of the anchor is properly attached to its base. 

Basic safety equipment should always be kept in a place where everyone onboard can find it. Show everyone on the boat where safety equipment is and how to use it, including the radio. 

Pack a Bag

You should always pack a safety bag or "go bag" to take on the boat with you. It's important to keep this bag packed with supplies and to check and replace items as needed before you board your boat.

Never take items out of your bag to use at home as you may forget to put them back in your bag! 

Everyone's safety bag should contain basic items like binoculars, a waterproof case for cell phones or matches, a GPS, a compass, a multitool pocket knife, a canned air horn, a signaling mirror, and a whistle.

Then there are the items that you may not think to pack, but would definitely benefit you in case of emergency or unforeseen circumstances.

Always keep food and water rations in your bag. Choose food that has a long shelf life, like energy bars, peanuts, or beef jerky. Make sure to check the food in your bag occasionally to make sure it hasn't expired. 

Always keep enough water in your bag to last everyone onboard for a few days.

Make sure to keep a first aid kit in your bag. This kit should include bandages, gauze, a small pair of scissors, thread, medical tape, eyewash, saline, gloves, safety pins, tweezers, eye wash, hydrocortisone cream, antihistamine tablets, cleansing wipes, and painkillers.

Plastic, non-white trash bags should also be kept in your bag. These can be used for trash, as a shield from the rain or sun, and as a marker to make your boat more visible.

You should also pack protective clothing options. A blanket and an aluminum blanket should both be in your bag. A light jacket or windbreaker should also be kept in your bag, along with durable rain gear. 

Last but not least, make sure to have several towels in your bag.

Be Fun and Safe in the Sun

Part of the appeal of recreational boating is being able to enjoy the company of those you love while basking in the sunlight. 

Bask in the glow of the sun, but make sure to have what you need to stay safe while doing so. Since water reflects light, being out on the ocean increases your exposure to the sun since the sun is reflecting off the water and deck. 

Exposure to the sun's UVB and UVA radiation can cause damage to your skin, premature aging, and even skin cancer.

Keep in mind that sun safety may look different for different types of passengers. For instance, if there is a baby or a senior citizen on board they may need greater sun protection. 

Everyone's skin is different, but sunburn can begin to occur in as little as 11 minutes according to Better Health Channel. 

Make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen with you on your boat. Sunscreen should be at least an SPF 30 and you may want to invest in several bottles. Make sure to choose a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum and apply it at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.

Make sure everyone on your boat knows where to find the sunscreen. You should also encourage everyone to bring their own hats with wide, protective brims. Just in case, it's a good idea to keep some extra hats in your boat's safety bag also. 

You can also bring protective clothing to help shield yourself from the sun. This can include something like a light jacket. You can also bring a shawl or choose to wear a long sleeve shirt. 

Prolonged sun exposure may cause eye issues over time. Everyone on your boat should also bring a pair of sunglasses, preferably with polarized lenses. 

Learn the Lingo

While you don't have to be an expert boater, taking some time to learn about boat basics will make your time out at sea easier. Knowing parts of a boat will also make it easier to go through a boat inspection checklist for possible safety concerns. 

This can be as simple as learning the names of all the major parts of a boat. This way you won't get confused while troubleshooting any issues on your boat and you can properly communicate any problems to a third party.

Starting with the uppermost parts, the bow of a boat is the very front part of the boat. The cleat is a piece of metal fitting on the boat that you can secure a line to. The gunwale is the upper edge of the boat's sides. 

The helm of the boat is the steering area, where you stand when you navigate your boat. The bilge is the inner, lowest point of the boat that is meant to collect excess water. Finally, the stern area is the back end of the boat. 

On the bottom of the boat, you have the hull, which is the main body of the boat. The keel is a long beam that runs down the bottom of the boat from the bow to the stern. 

You should also know what to call each area of the boat. When facing forward, the starboard is the right side of the boat. The left side is called port. Transom refers to the rear, flat part of the boat that usually holds the engine. 

Learn the Tides

Learning basics about tides, currents, and the patterns of both will be essential in keeping you, your boat, and your passengers safe. 

Tides are the movements of the water towards and away from the shore. A high tide is when the water is breaking further up on shore, and a low tide is when the water is at its lowest level and moving away from the shore. 

It's important to know when the tide will be high and low for your journey. This is because tide activity can affect factors like where you anchor or the position that your boat is in. Depending on the tide, you may have to adjust these things. 

Knowing the tides means you can help avoid problems like a beached boat or losing your boat. 

Put Your Boating Checklist to Use

Now that you have your boat safety checklist, it's time to plan your next boating adventure.

Contact Freedom Boat Club today with any questions and a representative will respond to your shortly. Find out all about your recreational boating options and put your boating checklist to use!

Cookie Preferences