Boating can be an enjoyable experience for everyone as long as you follow a few simple steps and ask yourself a few questions. Preparation is the key. Are you ready for a fun filled day on the water?
Have you ever arrived at the boat ramp, prepared to launch your boat, and found that you left your boat key hanging on the key rack at home? Did you bring enough personal floatation devices? Do you have what you need in case of an emergency? Have you ever put the boat in the water only to find you forgot to insert your plug?
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Developing a boating checklist will help keep you prepared. Laminate it and keep it on your boat for reference during preparation. Avoid omissions or mishaps and expect the unexpected.
Here are some questions to ask yourself while you develop your boating checklist:
- Walk the floor and deck of your boat; are there any soft spots?
- Is the hull in good shape?
- Are the batteries in good shape and will they hold a charge?
- How do the wires look, do any need replacing?
- How’s the fuel line and bulb?
- Is the bilge pump working properly?
- Are the drain holes clean and free of debris?
- Does the steering turn freely?
- Do the boat lights work?
- Are the electronics in check?
- Does the horn or noise making device function?
- Is the fire extinguisher charged and functioning?
- Are the boat and trailer registrations up to date?
Check all cleats, tighten any loose screws, and ensure that seating is secure. You should also do a driveway run to check if the water pump is working, how the starting system is working, and if motor needs any maintenance. Check your prop for excessive wear or damage.
Walk around your boat and look for anything out of the ordinary. Check your bow hook, wench, and bumper. Check your trailer to ensure that fenders and bunks are secure. Make repairs as necessary.
Before you leave your driveway:
- Is the plug in?
- Do you have the key?
- Is there a tool kit loaded with essentials in case of an emergency?
- Are my trailer lights working?
- Is the trailer coupled properly to the ball hitch and are the chains attached?
- How many PFD’s do we need? Do we have enough?
- Are the water skies, tubes, or boogie boards secured in the boat?
- Did you check the towline for the water toys for frays or wear? Are they in the boat?
- Is the motor in trailer position and secured?
- Is the boat secured to the trailer?
- How about fishing rods, tackle, and bait or lures?
- Do you have all your paper work and licenses on the boat and waterproofed?
- Do you have at least two ropes for tying off or towing if necessary?
- Are your docking fenders intact, loaded, and functional?
- Is the noise-making device loaded?
- Do you have your fire extinguisher?
- Is your first aid kit onboard and stocked?
- Do you have a working flashlight?
- Is the oar onboard?
- Is the cooler packed with ice, water, food, and an assortment of beverages? Is it loaded on the boat?
- Do you have plenty of sunscreen, towels, hats, sunglasses, a camera and diapers for any little boaters?
- Is there enough gas? If you have to stop for gas do you have what you need for mixing or additives when you get to the station?
- Does anyone know where you’re going and when you expect to return?
- Once your boat is loaded and everything you need for your excursion is secured, you should double-check your plug.
Before you launch:
- Is the plug in?
- Are the trailer lights unplugged?
- Is the wench unhooked from the bow?
Aside from backing down the boat and launching it, you should not have to spend much time on the boat ramp. Remember courtesy. If you prepared your boat before you left your driveway, you should be set to launch without holding up the line.
A sample checklist:
- Alternate Propulsion
- Batteries Secured/Clean/Fully Charged
- Battery On/Off
- Bilge On/Off
- Bimini Top Secured
- Boat/Trailer/Fishing Licenses
- Boat Key Onboard
- Cell Phone/Radio
- Drain Holes Cleared
- Extra Bailing Device
- Fish Finder/GPS Secured
- First Aid/Sunscreen/Towels
- Fishing Gear
- Hitch Coupler Pin Installed
- Inspect Hull/Floorboard/Deck
- Inspect Fuel/Oil Filters/Hoses
- Inspect Prop/Steering System
- Inspect Gauges
- Mooring Lines/Fenders
- Motor Lock Down/Up
- Navigation Lights/Spare Bulbs
- Oil/Fuel Additives Measured
- Plug In/Out
- Safety Chains Attached
- Spare Prop/Plugs/Parts
- Swim Step/Anchor Stowed
- Tie Downs Released/Secured
- Trailer Lights Connected/Working
- Trailer Tire Pressure Checked
- Water Toys Secured
- Winch/Chain Attached/Detached
- Windshield/Hatches Secured
- Do Others Know Plans?
Following some form of the above checklists will ensure a safe and fun time on the water. Enjoy your boating experience!