The Ultimate Pre-Departure Checklist for Boating


In some ways, boating is simple. If you have any boating experience, you can head to the water and start enjoying yourself without much prep work. But it also pays to be prepared – both for your safety and overall enjoyment.

That’s why we put together this “ultimate” checklist, which you can review before even short departures.

Why Is a Checklist Valuable?

Checklists are a convenient way to standardize the process of checking your boat and yourself before departing on the water. You can run down the list, item by item, and be confident that you’re not forgetting anything. Even if you develop a routine, it’s all too easy to forget about something you need – and once you’re on the water, it’s too late.


The Weather

Before departing, take the time to check the weather and see if it’s still acceptable to head out. If it looks like a storm is coming in a few hours, or if the forecast is uncertain, this is your chance to bail. If you’re experienced and the weather doesn’t look too bad, this could be a good chance to take other preventative measures – like securing the boat or bringing additional safety equipment.


Next, take a look at yourself. Are you adequately prepared with everything you personally need for this journey?

  • Licensing and other paperwork. Do you have all the licenses, forms, and paperwork you need to venture out to sea? For example, you may need a captain’s license to operate a boat, depending on where you live. You may also need a fishing license or other regulatory approvals, depending on what you’re doing and where you’re doing it.
  • Proper clothing. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the weather. Solid, reliable footwear is a must, and if the winds are strong or the air is cool, you’ll definitely want to bring some extra external layers.

The Boat

Run through the various systems and components of your boat to ensure they’re in full working order, such as:

  • Lights. Are all relevant lights on your boat working properly?
  • Fuel. Do you have ample fuel to get you to and from your ultimate destination, plus some extra?
  • Oil and coolant. Are your oil and coolant levels acceptable?
  • Tools and spare parts. Do you have a box of common marine tools and spare parts in case something breaks down during your journey?
  • Ventilation and odours. Is your boat sufficiently ventilated? Do you notice any abnormal smells that could clue you into a fuel leak or other problem?
  • Bilges and pumps. Are your bilges clear, with pumps working properly?
  • The battery. Is the battery in full working condition and on a full charge?
  • The anchor. Is your anchor attached and functioning properly?
  • Rope and dock lines. Do you have plenty of extra rope and dock lines in case you need them?

Personal Safety

Next, you’ll need to check to ensure you have all the personal safety equipment you need to keep you and your passengers as safe as possible during this voyage.

  • Lifejackets. Make sure you have at least one lifejacket for each person on board – and in the appropriate sizes for each passenger. You’ll also want to ensure that each lifejacket is working properly and has a whistle attached.
  • Throwing devices. Lifejackets are helpful, but they may not be enough to rescue someone who has fallen overboard. Make sure you have additional throwable floatation devices available to help people get back on board.
  • Radio. Next, check the radio. This is your emergency lifeline, and a source of information if you need one. Ensure it’s working properly and that you have backup batteries to allow it to work independently.
  • Flares. Flares and other signalling devices are essential if you’re stranded and in need of help. Make sure you have adequate coverage here.
  • Flashlight and batteries. Bring a flashlight and some extra batteries in case you need them.
  • Fire extinguisher. Just because you’re on the water doesn’t mean fire isn’t a major hazard. Check to ensure your fire extinguisher is ready to be used.
  • Emergency rations and water. Make sure there’s plenty of water for everyone onboard – as well as some emergency rations of food in case you’re stranded.

Other Optional Items

There are also some optional items you may want to bring with you on your journey:

  • Specific equipment. There are dozens, if not hundreds of fun hobbies you can enjoy with a boat, and some of them require specific equipment. For example, if you’re going fishing, you’ll need to bring rods, tackle, and bait, among other things. Because there are so many hobbies, each with their own requirements, it’s impossible to be comprehensive here; be sure to bring your own sub-checklist for each of these activities.
  • Food and beverages. Consider bringing some food and beverages for a picnic-style meal – especially if you’re going to be on the water for most of the day.
  • Charging cables. Bring some extra charging cables so your digital devices can remain charged throughout your experience.
  • Entertainment. You may also want to bring a source of entertainment for while you’re on board, such as a portable audio speaker or a book.

Overview with Passengers

Finally, it’s a good idea to explore topics of safety and boat operation with your passengers. Make sure they know where all your safety equipment is located and how to operate the radio in case of an emergency. Spending just a few minutes before departure could equip them with the knowledge they need to get you out of a dangerous situation.

Boating is much more enjoyable when you have a vessel you love. That’s why it’s so important to shop online when searching for your next boat – you’ll gain access to thousands of new and used vessels from all around the world, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. At TheYachtMarket, that’s exactly what we offer – so check out our selection of boats for sale today!

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