Most savvy boaters have a pre-departure checklist of one sort or another, and if they trailer their boats, they hopefully have a trailering checklist as well. Others people may have a checklist they refer to just once a year for spring commissioning, or one for sea trials on unfamiliar boats that they only focus on when they’re boat shopping. But shouldn’t everyone also have a checklist of the things they need to bring aboard, each and every time they pull of the dock? You bet.
No matter what type of boating you do, you'll always need these 10 critical on board a boat:
- Safety gear
- Provisions for the day
- A knife
- Extra lines
- Basic cleaning supplies
- An anchor and rode
- Proper documentation
- Chargers and chords for your electronics
- Emergency repair items
- Your cell phone
1. Safety Gear
Safety gear is obviously number one on our list and should be at the very top of yours, too. This includes both Coast Guard mandated gear as well as other items you should have close at hand no matter where or when you go boating. For a full accounting, see our boat safety checklist.
2. Provisions for the Day
There’s no doubt that food and drink are already something you think about bringing on every outing, but when you go boating there are also some additional provisions you should carry.
- Extra water is always important to have on hand because it’s easy to becomes dehydrated on hot summer days.
- It’s also good to have some fresh watermelon, yogurt, or oranges aboard, all of which both hydrate and provide a blast of energy.
- Other important provisions include suntan lotion and bug repellent, both of which can greatly increase your comfort level aboard a boat.
3. A Knife
One of the more common issues that can occur on the water is getting a fouled propeller. Rope, thick seaweed, or fishing line can get wrapped around the prop and bring your boat to a sudden stand-still. If you don’t have a knife available to cut it free, you may end up having to call for a tow.
4. Extra Lines
Extra lines can come in handy when you least expect it. You may decide to raft up with a friend or go to a waterfront restaurant that has a pier but no lines. And line can also come in handy for lashing things down.
5. Basic Cleaning Supplies
Even if you do your clean-up back at the dock or at home after a tow, there should be some boat soap, a soft rag, and a scrub brush aboard. Things like juice or wine, food sauces, or fish blood, will come right out if you clean up spills immediately. Let them dry in the sun, however, and scrubbing them away can become difficult if not impossible. This is particularly important when it comes to the vinyl, canvass, and carpet on a boat.
Check out How to Clean a Boat: Boat Cleaning Basics, to get the low-down on cleaning these specific parts of your boat.
6. An Anchor and Rode
Some people don’t carry an anchor and rode (the chain and line) because they never plan to anchor out. But this isn’t a wise move, because an anchor and rode are not only handy for having lunch “on the hook” or anchoring in Party Cove. They should also be considered as safety gear. If you break down and need to call for a tow, being able to anchor will maintain your position and make it easier for the tow boat to find you. It will also ensure that you don’t drift into a busy channel or a rocky shoreline.
7. Proper Documentation
In most states, you’re required to carry the proper documentation for both your boat and yourself. Check your specific state’s requirements, but in most cases this will include things like the boat registration, your boater education card, and personal identification such as a driver’s license.
8. Chargers and Chords for Your Electronics
Nothing’s more annoying than when your Bluetooth speaker, cell phone or other electronics run out of juice. Most modern boats have USB outlets and older ones usually have 12-volt plugs. So if you bring the appropriate chargers and chords, you can usually plug in and get right back to having fun.
9. Emergency Repair Items
Most boaters are a lot more interested in having fun on the water than in swinging a wrench or performing on-the-water repairs. So if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer you probably won’t want to haul a fully stocked toolbox and spare parts. That said, there are a number of emergency repairs that can be performed quickly and easily to get you home and/or prevent additional damage to your boat and its gear.
The short-list of repair items that belong aboard every boat includes:
- Duct tape, for securing things that may swing or flap when broken or ripped.
- A screw driver with regular and Phillips heads, for tightening screws that vibrate loose.
- An adjustable crescent wrench, for tightening bolts that vibrate loose.
- A portable jumper pack, in case of a dead battery.
- Electrical tape, for mending broken wires.
- A flashlight, for illuminating enclosed compartments and/or in case you inadvertently end up staying on the water after dark.
10. Your Cell Phone
One of the great things about being on a boat is that it allows you to un-plug from the rest of the world, and enjoy nature and the great outdoors without having to answer every ring and ping of the cell phone. So we think that you should feel free to turn that cell phone off and stow it away, or at least set it to mute. You should still, however, bring it aboard.
Not only will it allow you to communicate with the wider world if you have an issue that requires calling for assistance, it can also come in handy as a navigational device, a weather monitor, or even a fishing tool.
Check out Best Boating Apps: Navigation, Fishing, Weather, and More, to discover all the different ways your cell phone can make boating a better experience above and beyond serving as a communications device.
Bonus Items: Cool Accessories
This list of must-haves is not, of course, going to cover each and every thing you personally will want to have aboard depending on what activities you like to enjoy while afloat.
- Watersports lovers will want to add tow-toys and PFDs designed for their specific sport;
- Anglers will have fishing gear foremost in mind;
- Sailors have their own list or items they need;
- And those who love cooking out aboard the boat will have an entirely different checklist to make.
Visit our Boating Accessories pages, to get some ideas of the different goodies you may want to add to your own list of the things you need to bring aboard your boat, to make a great day on the water even greater.
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