Use this boat checklist before and after each excursion

It is the smart boater who has everything in order and available when he or she is ready to go boating, especially before the boating season or the fishing season starts. But even the most experienced boaters sometimes forget something they either need to or should check out. Because of this, it’s an excellent idea to have a boat checklist and refer to it before any excursion.

I have a boat checklist for boat and trailer affairs and another to make sure I don’t forget some necessary or useful fishing gear. Here are a few things to include on your boat checklist:

For the safety of boats

  • Personal flotation devices (PFDs) for each person on board. This is mandatory. PFDs must be in good condition and of the appropriate size and type for the intended user.
  • A Type IV launcher required for boats over 16 feet.
  • Visual distress signals. Usually these are torches with valid expiration dates.
  • Marine fire extinguishers. This is mandatory for certain types of boats.
  • Sound producing devices. This is mandatory on some boats and can be a whistle or a horn.
  • Navigation lights. This is mandatory for night boats.

The above items are necessities that are normally kept or attached to a boat. If not removed, they may not need to be checked every time you are out on the water during the boating season. However, if you are accompanied by different people from time to time, be sure to check the PFDs you have for them.

For boat trailers that you can use to bring your boat to the water

Before heading to the launch pad, check the following:

  • Trailer lights are connected to the towing vehicle and are working properly
  • Safety chains are connected to the towing vehicle
  • The coupling between the trailer hitch and trailer is secure and locked
  • The trailer service or swing jack is up and safe
  • The bow winch strap or rope and bow safety chain secure the bow of the boat to the trailer
  • The spare tire is safe
  • Tire chocks, if used, are removed from the trailer wheels.

For boats on a trailer before leaving the house and before exiting the boat ramp

  • Make sure the engine is tilted up
  • An engine support rod, if available, is safe
  • Stern straps are safe
  • Chargers and power cords are removed
  • The latches and compartments are closed and secure
  • Loose objects are removed or secured from the boat

For a boat and trailer before putting it in the water

  • Unplug the trailer lights if they are not submersible
  • Remove the fastening straps
  • Plug in the mirror connector
  • Make sure the motor is tilted up and the support rod is removed
  • Remove the bow protection chain (once the boat is near the water)
  • Remove the bow or bow winch cable (once the boat is near the water).
  • Place wheel chocks on the towing vehicle (if the launch ramp is steep)

If you are making a checklist of the items above and other items (e.g. checking your gas, dock lines, boat fenders, anchors, etc.), print it out on an 8 x 11 sheet of paper and then laminate it for durability . If you are taking your first trip of the season, make sure that your boat registration is still valid and that you have the appropriate fishing license if you go fishing.


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