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Safety

Pre-Departure Checklist

Click here for a printable version of this checklist

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

  • Have at least one Coast Guard-approved device per passenger and a minimum of two on board.
  • An additional throwable device is required if the vessel is more than 16 feet long.
  • Explain the location and use of all PFDs to passengers and crew that may be new to the vessel.

Sound Producing Devices

  • Have a horn capable of producing a four-second blast audible for at least 1/2 mile on board.
  • If you use portable air horn, have a spare can of air or an alternate device.
  • Attach a whistle to each PFD.

Lights and Shapes

  • Have all navigation lights as required for your boat.
  • Make sure all instrument lights are working.
  • If you intend to engage in a recreational boating activity that requires a day-shape, have the required shapes.
  • Have aboard a flashlight and spare batteries.

Distress Signals

  • Make flares, day signals, etc., accessible and ensure they are stored in a dry location.
  • Carry signals at all times even if not required by the Coast Guard.
  • Inform the crew and passengers of their location and safety rules for proper usage.

Tools and Spares

  • Carry a basic toolbox with tools appropriate for your boat.
  • Carry a box of spares including fuel filter, light bulbs, head parts, through-hull plugs, etc.

Fuel and Oil

  • Top off your fuel tanks.
  • If you can't, have enough fuel to provide a reasonable margin of safety for your return.
  • Check the engine oil and coolant levels.

Fire Extinguishers

  • Carry at least one fire extinguisher and make sure it is accessible. Make sure you have at least the number required by Coast Guard rules.
  • Check to be sure mounts are secure and functional before departure.
  • Take the time to point out locations to passengers and crew.

Ventilation

  • On any powered vessel or auxiliary powered sailboat, or vessels using LPG for cooking or heat, check that all interior spaces are well ventilated before departure.
  • If fuel smells are detected before ventilating, check after running the blowers for several minutes before starting.
  • If odor persists, shut down the engine and look for the source of the leak.

Bilges

  • Check to be sure bilges are reasonably dry and that pumps are not running excessively.
  • Clean up any spilled oil or waste in bilges to prevent overboard discharge.

Weather Forecast

  • Always check the weather forecast before boating.
  • Have a radio on board to receive weather updates.

Battery Care

  • If you have a dual charging system, make sure the selector switch in the proper position.
  • Make sure the power is on to the entire vessel.
  • Have aboard spare batteries for accessories such as your handheld radio, flashlight, portable navigational aid, etc.
  • If the batteries are rechargeable, make sure they're charged.

Docking and Anchoring Tips

  • Have at least one anchor set up and bent-on to your anchor line.
  • Carry two or three extra dock lines in case you encounter unusual conditions dockside.
  • Visually inspect the lines you use for chafe or wear.
  • Carry at least two fenders on-board for docking or towing if required.

Rules & Documentation

  • Have the ship's papers, radio license, fishing permit, etc. on board.
  • Have the chart or charts for the area you intend to cruise in, regardless of your level of local knowledge.

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