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Chapter 3: Launching and Operation
Chapter 3: Launching and Operation The Pre-Departure Checklist
The best way to prepare for a boating trip is to write and refer to a pre-departure checklist. This list ensures that one has all bases covered and is ready for anything out on the water. It can also be used to acclimate any new boaters or passengers to all of the tools needed as they set off on a boating trip.
Write and reference a pre-departure checklist for all boating trips and never be unprepared in case of an accident or emergency.
A complete pre-departure checklist should detail each of the following:Boating Equipment
Always keep a toolbox on board.
Be sure to include any spare parts one may need.
Fuel & Batteries:
Check the coolant and oil levels and ensure there is enough fuel for the trip.
Ensure that the battery is fully charged.
Ensure that all battery-powered equipment is functioning.
Pack spare batteries for any essential equipment such as a flashlight or handheld radio.
For powered boats, ensure that all enclosed spaces are well ventilated.
Always run the ventilation blower for a full 4 minutes before starting the engine. Be sure there is no smell of fumes after running the blower.
Anchor and Lines:
One must have at least one anchor, on board, attached to the anchor line.
One must have two fenders, for docking.
Ensure fenders and anchor line are in good condition.
Make sure to bring spare dock lines.
Inform passengers of proper anchoring procedures and tips.Safety Equipment
Personal Flotation Devices:
One will need to have a minimum of one PFD per passenger along with a minimum of two total. Even boating alone, one will need at least two Personal Flotation Devices.
If the boat is over 16 feet long one will also need to have at least one throwable PFD on board.
Let passengers know where all of the PFDs are and inform them that the best PFD is the one that is worn at all times.
Teach all passengers to properly put on their PFD. If using inflatable PFDs, tell passengers the appropriate way to wear and deploy them.
Have a U.S. Coast approved fire extinguisher in a readily accessible location.
Ensure that it is securely mounted, not expired, and in good working condition.
Sound Signaling Devices:
It is required that a minimum of two sound signaling devices such as an air horn, bell or whistle be on board.
Navigation Lights and Signaling Lights:
Always bring a flashlight and spare batteries.
Ensure all of the required navigation lights are in the correct positions and that they are all functioning.
Emergency Distress Signals:
Ensure passengers know the location of any distress signals and how to use them.
Store all flares in a dry and accessible place, like a distress signal box."To-Do List" Before DepartureCheck Weather Forecast:
Check the weather forecast before every trip.
Bring a handheld radio to monitor the weather. Inform passengers of the location and proper use of the radio.File a Float Plan:
Write and share a float plan with current passengers, family, friends, and/or other reliable parties.Hold a Safety Meeting:
Ensure passengers are aware of the best practices when boating.
Review the proper procedures for falls overboard, capsizing, running aground, and collision.
Inform passengers of the locations of all safety tools onboard and how to use them.
Inform all passengers of the on water emergency procedures, especially those regarding foul or rough weather.
Know how to use the VHF radio if available.
Keep a stocked first aid kit in an accessible location and let passengers know where these items can be found.Check Documentation:
Ensure that you have the boat registration, radio license, any fishing permits, and boater education card along with any other required documentation on board and that they are stored in a safe dry place.
Before each trip, review a pre-departure checklist to make sure you have everything you need for a safe trip.
Check the weather forecast for the area and timeframe during which you will be boating.
Check the hull for cracks or other damage.
Make sure the steering and throttle controls are operating properly.
Check the electrical system and that all lights are working properly.
Check for any fuel leaks from the tank, fuel lines, and carburetor.
Check the propulsion and cooling systems.
Check the oil level, and inspect the engine compartment for oil leaks.
Change the oil filter, water filter, and spark plugs, if needed.
Check hose connections for leaks or cracks, and make sure hose clamps are tight.
Drain all water from the engine compartment, and be sure the drainage plug is replaced and secure.
Make sure you have enough fuel or know where you can refuel. Remember that you want ⅓ to go out, ⅓ to return, and ⅓ in reserve.
Check to be sure you have a fully charged engine battery and fire extinguishers.
Make sure that you have the required number of lifejackets or PFDs, that they are in good condition, and that they are the proper sizes for the persons on board. Encourage everyone to wear a lifejacket or PFD.
Check that all required safety equipment is on board, is in good working order, and is easy to reach.
Make sure you have a first-aid kit, basic tools, and spare parts, including plugs for all through-hull fittings.
Make sure you have official nautical charts and related publications.
If so equipped, make sure the engine shut-off line is in good order.
Make sure the weight of persons and gear is evenly distributed and balanced, keeping most of the weight low.
Make sure all boat operators have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card or other proof of competency on board.
Check your charts to be sure you know the locations of local hazards and the expected water levels and tides.
Leave a float plan with a reliable friend or relative. Make sure that person knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
Run the blowers for at least four minutes before starting the engine. Check for airflow.
Boat Safety & Equipment Checklist
Ensure you have all the necessary equipment for a fun and safe day of boating on the water by following our checklist (includes downloadable and printable PDF).
Boat Safety Equipment Checklist
No two boating trips are the same, so you need to treat every trip seriously and always take some basic precautions before setting out.
Remember, not all boaters, or passengers, have the same experience or comfort level. With the many variables encountered on the water, it's easy for accidents to happen if precautions are overlooked.
One of the best ways to be prepared is to use a pre-departure checklist before each trip---even short trips! This type of checklist is easy to review, and it makes sure that you aren't caught unprepared. You can also use it to keep new passengers informed and comfortable.
Below is an example of what should be included on your pre-departure checklist. Download our printable PDF!
Personal Flotation Devices (Life jackets)
You need to have at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD onboard per passenger—and a minimum of two PFDs total. So if you're boating alone, you need two PFDs on board.
If your boat is longer than 16 feet, you also need to have a throwable type four PFD on board.
Make sure to tell all of your passengers where the PFDs are located.
You need at least two sound-signaling devices on board, such as an air horn, bell or whistle.
If you are carrying an air horn, also pack a spare can of compressed air.
Check to make sure you have all the required navigation lights and that they are working properly.
And always carry a flashlight on board.
Make sure that passengers know where distress signals are located and how to use them. Store flares in a dry, accessible location.
Docking and Anchoring
You need to have at least one anchor onboard, attached to the anchor line.
You'll also need two fenders for docking
Inspect your fenders and anchor line.
Have a coule of spare dock lines onboard.
Have all of the required documentation for your planned activities, including boat registration, radio license, fishing permits and boater education card.
Keep local charts on hand for quick reference
If required, have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher stored in an accessible place.
Check that it's securely mounted and not expired.
Inform all passengers of fire extinguisher location(s).
Tools and Spares
Keep a basic toolbox onboard with commonly used spare parts, like a fuel filter and light bulbs.
Emergency Boat Operation
Inform all passengers of procedures for emergencies on the water, including stormy weather.
If you have a VHF radio, know how to use it.
Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in an accessible location.
Fuel and Oil
Before leaving, check that you have enough fuel for the trip and that the oil and coolant are at good levels.
On powered vessels, make sure enclosed spaces are well ventilated
Run the blower for 4 full minutes before turning on the engine.
If fumes are present after blowing, look for a leak or spill.
Check that the battery is fully charged before leaving.
Also check that all battery powered equipment is working and pack spare batteries for important accessories like your handheld radio and flashlight.