By being prepared with all of the safe boating necessities, time spent on the water is so much more relaxing and enjoyable. You might be thinking of buying a new hard-sided cooler and those comfy new boat bean bags, but just make sure you check off these 12 necessities first.
1. Life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs)
A PFD is a life jacket that must be available for each person on board. Check with the U.S. Coast Guard to find out which types of PFDs (Type I, II, or III) are required for the specific kind of boating activities you participate in.
2. Registration and license paperwork
Keep important documents such as your boat registration and insurance card in a safe place on your boat.
3. Throwable flotation devices
A minimum requirement for most boats is a floating cushion, a type IV standard buoyant cushion, for man overboard situations. These types of cushions can generally be thrown 25 to 50 feet, depending on conditions.
4. Fire extinguishers
You may need more than one fire extinguisher, depending on the size of your boat. Boats less than 26 feet in length are required to have at least one B-1 fire extinguisher on board. Boats 26 to 40 feet in length need to have at least two B-1 fire extinguishers on board.
5. Visual distress signals
Be sure to have visual distress signals on your boat, such as three hand-held red flares that are less than 42 months old. You may carry expired flares as a backup plan, but expired flares won’t count towards your boat’s legal requirement.
6. Sound signaling devices
All boats are required to carry some type of sound signaling device, such as a whistle or air horn, depending on the type and size of the boat.
7. VHF radio
A hand-held or fixed mount VHF radio is one of the primary ways for you to communicate on the water, and one of the most important safety items you can have on your vessel.
8. First-aid kit
Since there’s no standard first-aid kit that’s right for every boat, you need to select a kit based on the duration of your trip and the number of people aboard. Basic first-aid kits are typically designed for four people or less on a one- or two-day trip. More comprehensive first-aid kits can cover up to 14 people who plan to be out at sea for a month.
9. Extra dock lines
Dock lines are required to secure your boat to a dock or to another boat when rafting. Be sure you have a few extras, and keep in mind that nylon rope is generally your best choice for dock lines.
10. Manual bailing service
Keep a manual bilge pump or bucket on board (for smaller boats) to remove water from the inside of the boat in the event of a leak.
11. Watertight flashlight
Get a waterproof, impact-resistant flashlight that will hold up to the elements and conditions on board. You can even find new models that float in the event they’re accidentally dropped into the water.
12. Basic tool kit
Make sure you have a multifunctional screwdriver, needle nose pliers, locking pliers, a ratchet set, hose clamps, a wire stripper, electrical tape, wire nuts, extra marine wire, zip ties, a moisture meter, and spark plugs, as well as spare screws, nuts, and bolts.