diligence on the dock: boat safety checklist

By the time the family is wrangled, supplies are gathered, and sun block is dry, you're (understandably) eager to set sail. But being patient can pay off, as your final moments on the dock are crucial for safety on the water.

pleasure cruising takes preparation

It may seem odd that an activity meant for relaxation would require any sort of rigorous prep work. But boating is a unique example.

In 2012, roughly 700 recreational boating accidents resulted from equipment failure or bad weather. These are 2 risks that can be easily spotted and evaded while still on the dock, either with necessary repairs or by simply waiting to cruise another time.

It's no surprise that the U.S. Coast Guard's motto is "Semper Paratus" — or translated, "Always Ready." After all, they know better than anyone that when it comes to boating, the first sign of trouble often means it's already too late. Prevention is always the best fix.

boat safety checklist before you leave the dock

Precautions you take on the dock can make all the difference on the water. Spend the extra time and run through this boat safety checklist before lifting anchor in your watercraft. When trouble strikes (or rather, doesn't), you'll be glad you did.

Check the weather

Make sure you won't be running into harsh storms or severe conditions. Even if you checked earlier that day, it never hurts to get one last forecast right before you head out.

Let someone know your plans

In case you run into trouble, it's good to have someone back home who can take action.

Test/check your equipment

Most boats have an array of required safety equipment on board. Check that the following items are in working order while you're still on the dock:

  • Horn
  • Life jackets
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Flares
  • GPS
  • Towline
  • Navigation lights
  • Anchor and rode
  • Emergency radio

Inspect fluids

Check levels on all key fluids, such as gasoline, coolant, and lubricating oil. If your boat runs on an inboard gasoline engine, run the blower for at least 4 minutes before starting her up.

Dry the bilge

Not only does "the bilge" sound like a neighborhood watering hole, on your boat it literally acts as one.

Your bilge is the lowest point on the vessel, a basin where most excess H2O accumulates. Letting the pool get too heavy can pose a sinking threat, so use the bilge pump to dry the boat whenever moisture begins to collect.

Ventilate all areas

Open up all interior spaces so they can air out. If you smell fuel, run the ventilation blowers to eliminate the odor. If you still smell gasoline after starting the engine, shut down and find the leak source.

Get a free vessel safety check

For the utmost peace of mind, pair your boat safety checklist with an inspection from the pros. The U.S. Coast Guard provides a free vessel safety check every year. (How easy is that?)

prepare for the worst with boat insurance

No boat safety checklist is complete until you've secured the right boat insurance policy for you and your vessel.

Despite your best preparation on the dock, you can never guarantee smooth sailing. It's nice to know that if you run into equipment problems, stormy weather, or other issues, you have options like on-water towing, wreckage removal, and fuel spill liability coverage to protect you and your investment.

What to do on a sinking boat
Learn 7 steps that can help guide you to safety if your boat starts to sink.

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