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7 Essential Steps in the Boat Safety Checklist

As a skipper, it is mandatory to physically examine a boat before you pull it out of storage. Examine the boat’s engine, it’s exterior and interior parts to ensure they are in topnotch shape. If not, it is important to get these boat parts replaced or fixed ASAP.

For a safe boating experience, you should equip your boat with the essential, critical safety gear and learn how to use it. It is also important to keep your boat in top condition, and you may have to consult with an expert Alumacraft dealer if you need to have your existing boat replaced.

For your information, the below boat safety checklist will help to keep you safe before you embark on your marine adventure. This boat safety checklist applies to large vessels, small day cruisers, kayaks, or small runabouts.

1. Status of On Board Safety Equipment

The best way to plan is to expect the unexpected, and then ensure your boat safety checklist covers all the unexpected circumstances. No one goes boating expecting an accident to happen, but the reality is that accidents do happen. To prepare for such eventualities, make sure your boat has the necessary safety equipment and that they are in working condition. Among items you will need to bring along are updated area charts, a GPS, Compass, fire extinguisher, throwable floaters, currently dated flares, a working whistle, a first-aid kit, and life jackets.

Other items you will need to bring along include anchors, a working dewatering device such as a bilge pump, and alternate propulsion such as oars or paddles. The fenders and mooring lines must also be in good condition. It’s vital to have a cell phone and VHF, a tool kit, spare parts, and a flashlight. You will also need to bring along personal items such as drinking water, prescription drugs, and a sunscreen. Finally, pack a boarding ladder or any other means of boarding.

2. Physically Inspect the Boat

First, drain the installed plug and check if the fuel tank is full. Next, make sure the bilge is free of water and check to see if the oil tank is full. Ensure the battery is fully charged and then check the navigational gear to see if it is working. The navigation lights should also be operational. Also, confirm that the shift and steering mechanisms are in good working condition and that the gauges are functional.

Always Keep natural ventilation cowls clear and open and make sure the blower is operable. Check the VHF antenna and radio to be satisfied they are working and set the bilge pump switch to auto. You should also perform a radio check; you never know when you will need it, and it better be working if you do.

3. Pre-Departure Checklist

Before you launch into the waters, check the weather reports on currents/tides and then file a float plan with someone you know. Tell them exactly where you are heading and when you intend to come back. Also, let them know what to do if you don’t return as indicated. Next, identify the non-swimmers and supply them with life jackets that fit, and ensure they wear them while on the waters.

Also, make sure everyone on board knows where the safety equipment and other items mentioned above are before leaving. Most importantly, every member of your crew should know how to use the fire extinguisher. Train them if they don’t. Next, identify the second-in-command in case the skipper is incapacitated.

Before you start your journey, turn the VHF Radio and show the crew how to tune into Channel 16. Make sure at least one alternative person knows how to transmit a Mayday. Also, ensure that one rode and the anchor is ready for immediate use and then turn on the GPS and set the appropriate towline length.

4. Boat Departure Checklist

Before you set off, make sure everyone is wearing a properly fitted PFD, including children aged 12 and under. Make sure at this point, everyone knows the area and how to use the safety equipment on board. Do another check to establish if everyone knows how to use critical emergency equipment such as the VHF radio, floaters, flares, and others.

Also, make sure dock lines and fenders are away from the propeller. Next, instruct everyone to keep their arms and hands inside the boat while seated. It also helps to watch out for other persons, vessels, and objects in the water.

5. While on the Water Checklist

Now that you are on the water and enjoying yourself if you have to drink, do it responsibly, especially if you are the skipper. Regularly update yourself on the prevailing weather by using the weather channels on your VHF radio. Keenly watch out for changes in cloud formations and wind speed. Always be aware of the location of the nearest protected anchorage or harbour.

As you continue with your excursion, keep an eye on fuel consumption and stick to the “Three-Thirds Rule,” namely; one-third outbound, one-third inbound, and one-third reserve. Keenly monitor the VHF radio Channel 16 for emergency traffic updates. In general, stay within the marked channels and be conscious of currents. You should also be ready to lend a helping hand if a vessel within your range is in trouble.

6. When Returning to the Dock Checklist

To return to the dock, ensure functional snubbers are in place and keep chafe away from the lines. Next, pump the holding tank and add treatment into it. Make sure alarms, automatic bilge pump, and clocks are turned on. Non-essential loads such as stereo, VHF, running lights should be turned off.

Also, check to establish if the shore power cable is connected and protected from chafe and that the battery charger is on and the inverter switched off. Finally, fill out, sign and date the logbook appropriately and close the float plan by calling the person you initially contacted.

7. Post-Use Boat Safety Checklist

Now that you had a good ride, your next checklist items should leave your boat ready for the next trip. Start by flushing the outboard motor(s) and then rinse off the trailer before pumping the bilge dry. Do not forget to turn off the battery switch. Next, rinse /wash the boat and all the gear. Finally, refuel the vessel and report any safety, cosmetic, electrical, mechanical or trailer problems to a supervisor or whoever is in charge.

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