West Marineʼs Safe Boating Checklist
Download this Safe Boating Checklist
- Check weather report and tides/currents
- File a float plan with someone you know. Tell them where youʼre going and when you intend to return (and what to do if you don’t).
- Identify non-swimmers
Identify second-in-command in case of skipperʼs incapacitation
Acquaint crew with the location and operation of Coast Guard required safety items if fitted:
Identify incremental recommended gear if fitted:
- Supply non-swimers with life jackets that fit and that they will wear while on the water
Demonstrate engine shutdown technique
Check bilges and pump dry if water is present
Before engine is started
- VHF Radio: Turn on and demonstrate how to select Channel 16. Ensure at least one other person knows how to transmit a Mayday.
- Ensure that one anchor and rode is ready for immediate use
- Turn on GPS
- Length of nylon line for a towline, perhaps 75' x 1/2"
Once engine is started
- If gasoline inboard, run blower for at least four minutes
- Check lubricating oil
- Check fuel level
- Make sure buzzers sound on engine panel
Disconnect shore power cable
Upon leaving the harbor, store a “go home” waypoint on the GPS
- Verify cooling water flow
- Check for oil pressure
- Attach kill switch lanyard if fitted
While on the water
A digital selective calling VHF marine-band radio allows mariners to instantly send an automatically formatted distress alert to the Coast Guard. Coast Guard photo by PA2 Brandyn Hill.
- Drink responsibly—especially if you are the skipper!
- Be weather aware
Know the location of the nearest harbor or protected anchorage
Monitor fuel consumption and remaining range
- Use the weather channels on your VHF radio
- Watch for changes in wind speed and cloud formations
Monitor VHF radio Channel 16 for emergency traffic
- Use the “Three Thirds Rule” (one-third outbound, one-third inbound, one-third reserve)
Know the waters in which you are navigating
- Be prepared to lend assistance if you are the nearest vessel
- Refer to local charts
- Stay within marked channels
- Be conscious of tides and currents
When you return to the dock
- Moore boat correctly with bow, stern, spring lines and fenders
Pump holding tank. Add holding tank treatment
Always-on loads (automatic bilge pump, alarms, clocks) are on
Non-essential loads (running lights, VHF, stereo, etc.) are off
Shore power cable is connected and protected from chafe
- Ensure snubbers (if so equipped) are in place
- Ensure lines are protected from chafe
Logbook has been filled out, signed, and dated
Close float plan by calling person whom you originally contacted.
- Battery charger is on
- Inverter may need to be turned off
This checklist was created by West Marine as a public service. We practice and encourage safe boating and seamanship.
For more info:
Read this short article on how to stay safe from the Coast Guard: 12 Tips for 12 Weeks of Summer.