PRE-DEPARTURE CHECK LIST | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (2023)

PRE-DEPARTURE CHECK LIST | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (1) by Ian Fortey Updated on September 2, 2022. In Boats

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Heading out on the water should be fun. Whether you are going to take your vessel out for fishing or just to sail. Make a pre-departure checklist part of your boating trip routine. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Doing so can save a lot of hassle, however.

Going over a pre-departure checklist for your boat is being a responsible boat owner. This ensures you are up to date on all safety equipment. If something bad happens, it can also aid in rescue. The U.S. Coast Guard can work a lot more efficiently if they have an idea of what your boat is like. That includes gear on board.

Let’s check out the basics of a boat departure checklist. Use this or one like it every time you head out. You’ll never be caught by surprise if you are always prepared. This way you will not overlook important items. Things like ventilation and battery care. Make sure someone else on shore has access to this info.

Safety Equipment

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  • Ensure you have life jackets and personal flotation devices in good condition.
  • You must have at least one Coast Guard approved PFD on board per passenger.
  • A minimum of two personal flotation devices are required.
  • You may require a throwable flotation device. This applies if your vessel is over 16 feet in length.
  • Ensure all crew and passengers know where to find this safety equipment. Make sure they all know how to wear and use life jackets.
  • Make sure life jackets are usable. They need to fit those on board to be useful.

Boat Condition

  • Perform a quick visual inspection of the hull. Look for any cracks or damage.
  • Make sure controls are operable. This includes steering and throttle.
  • Make sure propulsion and cooling are in good working order.
  • Drain any water from the engine compartment. Ensure drainage plugs are in place.
  • Check for proper weight distribution. Make sure passengers know to spread their weight evenly on board.

Navigation Lights and Shapes

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  • Navigation lights and shapes such as day shapes must be on board and in good working order.
  • Test all navigation lights to ensure proper function.
  • Check instrument lights for proper function.
  • Ensure day shapes are on board if you are going to do anything that requires them.
  • Have an emergency flashlight on board if case power fails.

Sound Producing Devices

  • This includes an air horn or whistle, as well as bells and gongs. You must have two sound-producing devices on board.
  • Your horn or whistle must be able to produce a prolonged 4 to 6 second blast. It must be able to be heard at least ½ mile away.
  • Keep a spare can of air if you are using a portable air horn


  • Check your electronics to make sure they are all in working order. This includes:
  • VHF Radio
  • GPS
  • Radar
  • Any other devices as applicable.

Emergency and Distress Signals

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Emergencies can take many forms. Ensure you have the following on board, These will help you manage most incidents in a pinch.

  • A fire extinguisher that is in good working order. Always check the date at which it was last serviced. Make sure it is a Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher.
  • Emergency flares. Make sure these are stored somewhere dry. Also ensure all passengers know where they are and how to use them.
  • Day signals to indicate distress. Even if the Coast Guard does not require your vessel to carry these, it’s a good idea. An orange flag with a black square and black circle indicate distress. It should be visible from the air. A square flag with a ball also indicates distress. Finally, distress flags N and C also indicate distress.
  • Make sure the crew or passengers know what to do in a man overboard situation. Point out the MOB button if you have one.
  • Emergency propulsion. If your engine fails, you may need alternate propulsion. Depending on your boat this could be oars or sails. If applicable, make sure you have access to them and they work.
  • A mirror. In extreme circumstances, a mirror can be used as a signaling device.
  • An emergency first-aid kit. This should contain a variety of items. Most importantly you want a kit that contains:
    • Scissors to cut tape and bandages. It may be needed to cut clothing if someone falls overboard and needs to be warmed up.
    • Elastic bandages for covering wounds
    • Triangle bandages for arm and shoulder injuries
    • Adhesive bandages for smaller cuts and wounds
    • Absorbent pads to cover wounds
    • Rolled gauze to wrap wounds and hold pads in place
    • Safety pins to secure bandages
    • Tape to secure bandages
    • Saline solution to flush out wounds
    • Gloves to prevent contact with open wounds
    • A splint to immobilize breaks
    • Foil blanket for keep injured passengers warm
    • Alcohol wipes for cleaning hands and wounds
    • Common medications like Tylenol or Ibuprofen

Fuel and Fluids

  • Always ensure fuel is topped up before departing.
  • Check coolant levels before departing.
  • Check engine oil before departing.
  • Make sure you have adequate fuel on board to handle your entire trip.
  • Ensure spare fuel is stored safely and securely. Keep it away from any potential source of open flame or spark.


  • Ensure all interior spaces have functional ventilation. This is especially important if you do any cooking. If you use LPG – liquid petroleum gas – for cooking or heat, you must have proper ventilation.
  • Run the ventilation blower for several minutes before starting the engine. This helps dissipate built up fumes.
  • Check again afterwards. If you still notice fuel smells, you may need to delay your trip to source the problem. You likely have a leak or some kind of spill.


  • Keep a tool box handy on board. Include basic tools needed to access or repair vital components of the vessel.
  • Include spares of integral parts. This includes through hull plugs, air filters, and light bulbs. Also fuel filters and spark plugs. Anything easily replaced by yourself on the water.


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  • Inspect the bilges before heading out. Make sure they are reasonably dry and working properly.
  • Make sure the pump is in good working order.
  • If need be, clean any spilled oil or other waste in the bilge to prevent pollution.

Battery Care

  • Make sure your battery is fully charged before departing.
  • If you have a dual charging system, check the selector switch. You need to make sure it’s in the right position.
  • Ensure power is on to the whole vessel.
  • Make sure you have spare batteries for portable electronics. This includes flashlights, radio, and nav equipment.
  • Make sure any rechargeable batteries are charged.

Docking and Anchoring

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  • Make sure you have at least one anchor on board. It should be attached to your anchor line.
  • Check all additional lines. You should have at least three spare dock lines.
  • Inspect the anchor line and dock line. Look for any chafe or signs of damage.
  • Keep at least two fenders on board for docking. This is also in case you need to be towed.

Navigation Aids

  • Have paper charts on hand in case of electronic failure. Familiarize yourself with any potential hazard on or near your route.
  • Keep a compass on board. This will be useful of GPS is no longer functional.

Check the Weather Forecast

  • Have you done a weather check before heading out? Get the local forecast before heading out to avoid potential surprises.
  • Check the weather forecast for your place of departure as well as your destination.
  • Adjust your trip as necessary to avoid dangerous weather. Limited visibility can be dangerous. As can fog and rain.
  • Make sure your radio is able to receive weather updates.
  • Ensure all crew or passengers know what to do in bad weather.


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Check to ensure you have all of the relevant documents on board the vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard may ask you for some of this. Always have it safe and secure on board. This includes:

  • Radio license
  • Float plan
  • Fishing permit
  • Boat registration
  • Paper charts
  • Boater education card

Leave a copy of your pre departure checklist and float plan on shore. Ideally with family or a trusted friend. These can be provided to the U.S. Coast Guard in case of an emergency.

Make sure your float plan is detailed. The Coast Guard can use this to find you if anything goes wrong. It will greatly reduce the search area for them. That can save valuable time.

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Things to Remember

The pre departure checklist seems daunting but don’t feel overwhelmed. Many of these items are quick and easy to check off. A visual inspection of your whole boat will cover most items. Even though some are easy and just require a moment of your time doesn’t mean you can ignore them. Making sure all of the checklist is done can be the difference between getting home safely and not.

Boating trips can be relaxing and fun. It should be. Whether just a pleasure cruise or fishing or anything else. But it also comes with responsibilities. Take care of the serious business first, then you can enjoy the fun parts afterwards.

PRE-DEPARTURE CHECK LIST | Boat Safe | Water Sports, Product Reviews, and Nautical News (8)

About Ian

My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

Categories: Boats, nauticalknowhow

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What is the pre departure checklist for boating? ›

Boat Condition

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.

Why should the boat operator review their pre departure checklist? ›

A pre departure checklist is easy to review, and it ensures that you don't get caught on the water unprepared. It is also useful to keep new passengers informed and comfortable. Common sense tells us that we should check everything about our boat before leaving the dock to prevent an unpleasant situation.

How does a predeparture checklist help you? ›

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.

Which one of these should be part of a pre-departure checklist? ›

Before departing, have a safety discussion with everyone on board. Some of the things you should point out are: Locations of emergency equipment—personal flotation devices (PFDs), fire extinguisher(s), visual distress signals, first-aid kit, and bilge pump.

Which of the following is an accurate statement regarding a pre-departure checklist? ›

Which of the following is an accurate statement regarding a pre-departure checklist? Should be used before each trip, regardless of length. Before operating on an unfamiliar body of water why is it important to determine the location of shoaling areas? They are often difficult to spot, even with local charts.

What is the most important thing to check before launching your boat? ›

Ensure the trailer is properly connected to the towing vehicle and a safety chain is attached. Check all lights and brakes on the trailer. Check to make sure the boat is securely attached to the trailer by winch wire and safety chain, stern hold-downs and all equipment in the boat are safely secured and stowed.

What steps can be conducted to handle pre-departure preparations? ›

Pre-Departure Checklist
  1. Contact Information and Personal Documents.
  2. Complete an Emergency Contact wallet card.
  3. Give your family and the Study Abroad Office copies of your itinerary and keep all apprised of changes.
  4. Copy of passport – one at home, two to take with you.

Why is it necessary to perform pre-departure checks before starting the tour? ›

Why are pre-departure checks conducted? Pre-departure checks are conducted to: • Ensure the tour runs smoothly • Meet customer expectations • Discharge Duty of Care and other legal obligations • Make sure all necessary items are loaded for the tour • Support tour guides and other tour staff.

What is a pre start checklist? ›

A pre-start checklist normally covers the exterior and interior condition of the vehicle or equipment as well as operational aspects including mechanical and electrical systems, fluid levels and safety devices such as alarms, fire extinguishers and first-aid kits.

What is checklist and example? ›

A checklist is a list of all the things that you need to do, information that you want to find out, or things that you need to take somewhere, which you make in order to ensure that you do not forget anything. Make a checklist of the tools and materials you will need. [ + of]

What is the most important rule of boat safety? ›

One of the most important parts of boating safety is to know the rules and to use your common sense. This means operating at a safe speed at all times, especially in crowded areas. Be alert at all times, and steer clear of large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn.

What is a must have on boats? ›

Boaters must carry at least one of the following devices that are suitable for day or night use: Hand red flare, distress signals. Floating orange smoke distress signals (day) Pistol projected parachute red flare distress signals.

What electronics should I have on my boat? ›

What boat electronics do I need onboard?
  • Multifunction Displays (MFDs)
  • GPS/Chartplotter.
  • Fish Finder or Depth Sounder.
  • Engine Monitors.
  • VHF Radios.

Do I need to fill in pre-departure form? ›

Travellers will be required to fill in the pre-departure form provided in MySejahtera Traveller icon.

What are the most common topics covered in the pre-departure training? ›

Simply receiving pre-departure training was not associated with perceived preparedness, but pre-departure training in the following learning domains was: travel safety, personal health, clinical skills, cultural awareness, and leadership.

What is the most common form of pre-departure training? ›

Culture awareness training is the most common form of pre-departure training.

What information should be included in a float plan? ›

You should leave a float plan that:
  • Describes the vessel, including its registration number, length, make, horsepower, and engine type.
  • Includes the description and license plate of the tow vehicle and trailer.
  • Gives the number of passengers, their names and addresses, and a contact in case of emergency.

Which of the following markers indicates safe water? ›

Safe Water Markers: These are white with red vertical stripes and indicate unobstructed water on all sides. They mark mid-channels or fairways and may be passed on either side. Mooring Buoys: These are white with a blue horizontal band.

What is pre departure event? ›

Pre-departure event is an informative session for students going overseas for higher education. Valuable and meaningful information is exchanged during these sessions. It helps to have some knowledge of the local culture and customs before arriving in the country of study.

What do boat surveyors look for? ›

The surveyors will inspect the hull to check for soundness and water intrusion, running gear, electronics, electrical system, plumbing, heat and air conditioning and all other items of the boat. They will do a cursory review of the engine and mechanical systems.

What time of day is best to go boating? ›

Less Boat Traffic and Calmer water:

Boating in the morning comes with a special sense of quiet and calm that you won't find anywhere but on the water. There is usually less boat traffic in the morning unless it's a holiday weekend, which makes it nice. The water can be calmer in the morning as well due to less traffic.

What four things should you follow before putting a boat in the water? ›


Check that DRAIN PLUG IS INSTALLED in bottom of boat. Leave trailer completely connected to car prior to backing down boat ramp. Disconnect trailer lights. Remove any trailer to boat tie downs.

What is the purpose of a pre-departure training? ›

Pre-departure training for expatriates is a broad term for a programme that briefs soon to be expatriates on what to expect when living and working abroad. Well delivered training allows employees to personalise learnings to anticipate and plan for challenges they and their family may face when they move abroad.

What is pre-departure orientation? ›

Pre-Departure Orientations are sessions designed to prepare outgoing students for a meaningful study abroad experience. There are three components to the study abroad pre-departure orientation: the general, regional, and online tutorial.

What is pre-departure swab? ›

Pre-departure COVID19 Tests (Travel Swab) AcuMed Medical provides COVID-19 PCR tests for outbound travellers aged 13 years and above. Please check the relevant travel advisories for all destinations in your itinerary to ensure that you meet the latest requirements.

How do you prepare a ship bridge before departure? ›

Bridge Procedures: Bridge preparations for voyage departure
  1. Step 1: Having a comprehensive passage plan. ...
  2. Step 2: Working with the Pilot. ...
  3. Step 3: Checking and preparing the machinery. ...
  4. Step 4: Using the appropriate checklist to ensure safe departure.
Apr 12, 2018

What does a tour departure list contain? ›

The departures list displays all of the guests departing on a particular day or during a particular time period. In the departure list, you can check out one or more guests. Additional information, such as guest information, reservation details, or invoices, can also be quickly accessed.

What is the first thing you must do before starting your pre trip inspection of the engine compartment? ›

Verify that the LIGHTS on the front of the truck are the proper color, securely mounted, not cracked or broken, and clean. Next, make sure the truck isn't LEANing to one side, which could indicate a suspension problem or low tire pressure. Ensure there are no LEAKS underneath the engine compartment.

What is the first step of the seven step pre trip inspection? ›

Turn off headlights and four-way, hazard warning flashers. Turn on parking, clearance, side-marker, and identification lights. Turn on right turn signal, and start walk- around inspection.

What is the purpose of pre use checks? ›

Pre-use checks are identified in the manufacturer's operators manual, which should be supplied with the MEWP. Carrying out pre-use checks will help identify that the MEWP has not suffered from any vandalism, abuse, impact damage or wear and tear that could present a safety issue.

What is 5S checklist? ›

The 5S framework, developed and popularized in Japan, provides five key steps for maintaining an efficient workspace in order to improve the quality of products. In Japanese, these steps are known as seiri (Sort), seiton (Set in order), seiso (Shine), seiketsu (Standardize), and shitsuke (Sustain).

What are the six steps of the basic checklist? ›

6 Steps to Creating a Checklist
  • Step 1: Identify “Stupid Mistakes” That Cause Failure. ...
  • Step 2: Seek Additional Input From Others. ...
  • Step 3: Create Simple “Do” Steps. ...
  • Step 4: Create Simple “Talk” Steps. ...
  • Step 5: Test The Checklist. ...
  • Step 6: Refine the Checklist.
Mar 13, 2017

What is the most frequently used checklist? ›

To-do List. Probably the most commonly used type of checklist in homes and offices across the world is the to-do list. The list consists of several tasks that need to be completed. These could be listed in order of importance or just noted down randomly.

What is a quality checklist? ›

A quality control checklist is basically a written guide for your products' contents, packaging, color, barcodes, appearance, possible defects, functions, and special requirements. It's also sometimes called an “inspection criteria sheet” or inspection checklist.

What is the golden rule of boating? ›

1. Always wear your life jacket. 70% of all boating deaths are drownings, and over 80% of all drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Wearing your jacket all the time you're on the water is the most important thing you can do to ensure your safety.

What are the 5 essential safety devices you should have on a boat? ›

5 Must-Have Safety Equipment for Your Boat
  • Life jackets and wearable personal flotation devices (PFDs)
  • Throwable flotation devices.
  • Fire extinguishers.
  • Visual signaling devices.
  • Sound signaling devices.

What is the 5 safety rule? ›

The Basics of Safety
  • STAY ALERT - and stay alive. ...
  • WEAR THE RIGHT CLOTHES - work clothes should fit properly. ...
  • USE THE RIGHT TOOLS - if you need a hammer, get a hammer. ...
  • LEARN HOW TO LIFT - Lifting takes more than muscle; it is an art.

What is the single most important thing a boat? ›

A life jacket (or Personal Flotation Device - PFD) is the single most important piece of equipment on your boat and the most important consideration should be size. More than two-thirds of all boating fatalities are drowning incidents and 90% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.

What type of boat requires the least maintenance? ›

For a family interested in spending the night on their boat, cruisers are a great option. To keep maintenance costs low, smaller cruisers with outboards and just the basic equipment are a good choice.

What should you not do on a boat? ›

8 things to leave behind when going boating
  • Shoes with marking soles. ...
  • Spray sunscreen. ...
  • Chocolate or other messy snacks. ...
  • Cigarettes. ...
  • Unexpected guests. ...
  • Perfume. ...
  • Glass bottles or containers of any kind. ...
  • Plastic grocery bags.

Should I bring my phone on a boat? ›

As long as you've got your mobile tablet or phone in a good waterproof case and mounted securely, there's no reason to fear taking it on your boat every trip.

Can I use my phone for boat navigation? ›

With the best marine navigation apps you can quite literally turn your phone or your tablet into a full-blown chartplotter. That means you have a valuable back-up to the electronics at your helm, and you can carry your tech with you even when aboard small boats with no electrical systems.

What should I bring on my boat at night? ›

What To Pack For Boating At Night
  1. Safety Gear. By law, you must carry a full arsenal of safety gear, no matter the time of day. ...
  2. Communication Devices. ...
  3. A Navigational Device. ...
  4. A Spotlight. ...
  5. Warm Clothes. ...
  6. An Anchor. ...
  7. Take It Slow. ...
  8. Post A Lookout.

What is a ship shore safety checklist and when is it used? ›

The purpose of the Ship/Shore Safety Checklist is to improve working relationships between ship and terminal, and thereby to improve the safety of operations.


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