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Ten Things to Check Before Going on a Boat Trip

Before you leave shore, go through this short checklist to ensure you have what you need for a successful boating trip no matter how long you’ll be away.

On the Water
Ten Things to Check Before Going on a Boat Trip

Standing on the dock, about to leave for the day or the weekend on your boat,  you realize you’ve forgotten the cooler with all your food and beverages at home! It isn’t a good start to the trip. Any time you spend on the water is better than on land, but anything you forget to bring with you interrupt your trip. It could be a minor irritant like leaving your sweater in the car or a safety-related concern like forgetting the life jackets.

Before you leave shore, go through this short checklist to ensure you have what you need for a successful boating trip no matter how long you’ll be away.

Safety gear

Your vessel should always have safety equipment onboard that’s approved by the Coast Guard. It contains items like a First Aid kit, a fire extinguisher, a whistle, bailing bucket, rope, and some sort of visual signaling equipment. But additional safety gear will help you stay secure on your trip including paddles and a tool kit.

You may need to replenish or renew what’s in your safety kit from time to time. Before hitting the water, ensure it’s found its place back on your boat.

Food and water

When you’re spending hours or days at sea, you’re bound to get hungry and thirsty. Not only is it important to have food available if there’s an emergency, but boating is a great time to get together with friends and family to enjoy a meal. Wouldn’t it be terrible if you forgot to bring your cooler along? 

A change of clothes

Weather conditions can change in minutes, and staying comfortable will help you stay on the water as long as possible. Dress for the day you expect and hope to have, but everyone should have clothing to suit the possible weather changes. A jacket or sweater, long pants, a hat, and a raincoat are particularly important to consider bringing.

Proper documentation

What documents will you need for your voyage? As the captain, you’ll need your identification and boater’s license (where required), as well as boat registration info, but what else is necessary?

It’s a great idea for everyone onboard to have some form of photo ID. And if there’s a possibility you’ll be entering a different country by boat, you might need to have passports as well. When you’re planning your trip, take into consideration any documentation that might be requested by authorities.

Anchor and ropes

Whether you’re fishing or mooring at a dock, securing your vessel requires certain gear. An anchor sufficiently sized to hold your boat should be onboard along with a length of rope. Several shorter ropes should be included in your gear, should you need to tie up to cleats on a dock in your travels.


Although it’s recommended to wear a life jacket at all times when on a boat, the fact is that some boaters don’t wear one. At the absolute minimum, the Coast Guard requires that you have appropriately sized lifejackets for every person on the boat.

Whether you have standard foam-style vest or an inflatable PFD, periodically have it tested to ensure it will operate as designed in an emergency.

Fuel level

Do you have enough fuel for your boat trip with some in reserve? Often, boating doesn’t precisely follow the course you chart and you can end up burning more fuel than you expect. It’s best to start out with a full tank of fuel, and bringing a jerry can for a backup is recommended.

Phone and charging cable

In an era where smartphones are everything from entertainment and alarm clock to a lifeline to the outside world, it’s common to bring them everywhere. If your trip is going to take several hours or potentially more than a day, bring a charging cable to top up the battery.

Engine status

How is your engine performing, and is its maintenance up to date? Prior to leaving shore, it’s a great idea to check your VesselView Mobile app for any notifications and alerts such as high-temperature warnings, and to see if your engine is due for routine maintenance. If it is, be safe and have it performed prior to your trip.

1st Mate system

Do you have your 1st Mate fobs? Whether you have a fob for everyone onboard or the captain alone, ensure you have the wearable fob along with you. It performs an important role in boat safety and securityas an anti-theft device that can prevent would-be thieves from starting your boat. If someone falls overboard, it sends an MOB alarm to an emergency signaling device. And if there’s an emergency onboard, 1st Mate can send a distress signal in seconds so you can focus on the urgent matter at hand.

Confidence and safety, and the right gear are crucial to any successful boating trip. To learn more about 1st Mate and its benefits, or to locate a dealer, click here.

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