Safe Boating Checklist
Last updated: 6/12/2018
Download West Marine's Safe Boating Checklist
Download Federal Requirements and Safety Tips: A Boater's Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats
Download this >USCG Float Plan
- 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
- Supply non-swimmers with life jackets that fit and that they will wear while on the water
- Identify second-in-command in case of skipperʼs incapacitation
- Acquaint crew with the location and operation of Coast Guard required safety items if fitted:
- Life jackets—should be readily accessible
- Lifesling or throwable flotation—should be immediately accessible.
- Horn or sound-producing device as required
- Fire extinguishers: Acquaint crew with operation: Pull the pin, Aim the fire extinguisher, Squeeze the two handles together, Sweep across the base of flames (PASS)
- Flares or other Visual Distress Signals
- Check operation of Navigation Lights
Keeping a few inexpensive life jackets onboard, like these All Family Runabout Life Vests helps to ensure that you never get caught short.
- Identify incremental recommended gear if fitted:
- 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"
- Demonstrate engine shutdown technique
- Check bilges and pump dry if water is present
- Before 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
- Once engine is started
- Verify cooling water flow
- Check for oil pressure
- Attach kill switch lanyard if fitted
- Disconnect shore power cable
- Upon leaving the harbor, store a “go home” waypoint on the GPS
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.
- Drink responsibly—especially if you are the skipper!
- Be weather aware
- Use the weather channels on your VHF radio
- Watch for changes in wind speed and cloud formations
- Know the location of the nearest harbor or protected anchorage
- Monitor fuel consumption and remaining range
- Use the “Three-Thirds Rule” (one-third outbound, one-third inbound, one-third reserve)
- Monitor VHF radio Channel 16 for emergency traffic
- Be prepared to lend assistance if you are the nearest vessel
- Know the waters in which you are navigating
- Refer to local charts
- Stay within marked channels
- Be conscious of tides and currents
When you return to the dock
- Moor boat correctly with bow, stern, spring lines and fenders
- Ensure snubbers (if so equipped) are in place
- Ensure lines are protected from chafe
- 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
- Battery charger is on
- Inverter may need to be turned off
- Logbook has been filled out, signed, and dated
- Close float plan by calling person whom you originally contacted.
This checklist was created by West Marine as a public service. We practice and encourage safe boating and seamanship.