Safe Boating Checklist


1. Check weather report and tides/currents

2. 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).

3. Identify non-swimmers

  • Supply them with fitted life jackets while on the water

4. Identify second-in-command in case of skipperʼs incapacitation

5. Identify the location and the operation of the following 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 and a brief description of their operation (P.A.S.S.)
  • Flares or other Visual Distress Signals
  • Check operation of Navigation Lights

6. Identify incremental recommended gear if fitted

  • VHF Radio; turn on and select Channel 16. Ensure that one other person knows how to transmit a Mayday.
  • Ensure that one anchor and rode is ready for immediate use
  • Turn on GPS
  • A length of nylon line for a towline, perhaps 75′ x 1/2″

7. Describe engine shutdown technique

8. Check bilges; pump dry if water is present

9. 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

10. Once engine is started

  • Check for signsof cooling water flow and check for oil pressure
  • Attach kill switch lanyard if fitted

11. Disconnect shore power cable

12. Upon leaving the harbor, store a “go home” waypoint on the GPS

While on the water

1. Drink responsibly, especially if you are the skipper

2. Keep aware of the weather

  • Use the weather channels on your VHF radio
  • Watch for changes in wind speed and cloud formations

3. Know where the nearest harbor or protected anchorage is

4. Monitor fuel consumption and remaining range

  • Use the “Three Thirds Rule”; one third outbound, onethird inbound, one third reserve

5. Monitor VHF radio Channel 16 for emergency traffic

  • Be prepared to lend assistance if you are the nearest vessel

6. 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

1. Boat is moored correctly with bow, stern, spring lines and fenders

  • Snubbers, if used, are in place
  • Lines are protected from chafe

2. Pump holding tank. Add holding tank treatment

3. Main battery switch is off

  • Always-on loads (bilge pump, clocks) are on

4. Shore power cable is attached and protected from chafe

  • Battery charger is on; inverter may need to be turned off

5. Logbook has been filled out, signed, and dated

6. 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.

For more info:

Read this short article on how to stay safe from the Coast Guard: 12 Tips for 12 Weeks of Summer.