Boat Prep Reminders

Published Date: Jul 03, 2022

Boat Prep Reminders

An ounce of prevention plus another ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure when it comes to keeping your boat afloat, seaworthy, and safe. Here a few items to make sure you have on your pre and post boating checklist. As a lifelong boater myself, I can honestly say I occasionally overlook some of these in my rush to get on or off the water. A written checklist helps to avoid unintended shortcuts when leaving the dock for your afternoon cruise or sail or when leaving the boat after a relaxing day on the water.

Before slipping the dock or mooring lines:

  1. Avoid drinking alcohol while underway. Laws apply for drinking while operating a boat as they do while operating a vehicle ashore. As the owner/captain you are responsible for the safety of your family and guests. Make sure they also drink responsibly.
  2. Check the weather forecast for your area and monitor conditions throughout the day. Be ready to seek shelter if the weather changes.
  3. Check the bilges for water and make sure the float switch on the bilge pump is working.
  4. Check the fluids and belt tension on the engines before starting them.
  5. Make sure your wet exhaust is spitting cooling water.
  6. Check engine water temperature, oil pressure and confirm the engine alternator is charging the batteries.
  7. Check to make sure forward and reverse engine controls and throttle are working before untying lines.
  8. Make sure all lines are aboard i.e. away from the props before leaving the dock or mooring.
  9. Make sure your anchor windlass is functioning. Dropping the hook can be the best way to buy some time to assess a situation if you lose power.
  10. Keep a “roving” fender handy to place between your boat and the dock or another boat should you lose power or misjudge when maneuvering in tight quarters. Don’t ask your family or guests to be human fenders.
  11. Check the bilges while underway – especially if the boat has not been used recently. Some shaft logs have a habit of drying out causing them to leak more than a few drops a minute requiring adjustment (with the engine off of course).
  12. Check running lights if you plan to navigate between dusk and dawn.
  13. Show your guests where the life jackets and fire extinguishers are stored.
  14. When in doubt, wear a personal flotation device when on deck.
  15. Have throwable flotation available on deck to throw to a person that falls overboard that is not wearing a PFD and brief your guests on man overboard procedures explaining what to do if someone does fall overboard.
  16. Make sure at least one other person besides the owner/captain knows how to operate the VHF radio and is familiar with Channel 16 to call for help.
  17. Watch the depthsounder along with the chartplotter. Channel depths can change seasonally and are often not accurately marked. When in doubt, slow down.
  18. Be aware of other boats in your area or anchorage and be ready to avoid a collision or deploy the roving fender if another boater is about to bump into you.
  19. Have a first aid kit and flares aboard.

When leaving the boat after a day on the water:

  1. Check the bilges for water.
  2. Check the shaft logs to make sure they are not leaking and the check the bilges for both water as well as fuel that may have leaked out of a tank or fitting. Don’t rely on an automatic bilge pump to stay ahead of a leaky shaft log or any other hull leak. If the batteries run down, the pump will lose the battle and the boat will eventually fill with water.
  3. If there is fuel or oil in the bilge, soak it up with bilge socks, dispose of the socks properly, and locate the source of the fuel/oil immediately. Don’t let your bilge pump send petroleum products over the side.
  4. Ensure the bilge pump’s automatic float switch is functioning.
  5. Make sure your shore power cord is connected and showing a proper charge on your electrical panel.
  6. If you have propane cooking or heating, ensure the propane tank is shut off.

These are basic suggestions and many of you will have your own checklist based on past experiences. Happy boating from the team at Novamar Insurance.

Written by Craig Chamberlain of Novamar