Heading to the Jersey shore or the Gold Coast before summer ends? In addition to stocking up on snacks and making sure your boat insurance is up to date, there’s a lot to do to get ready for your next trip. Our 11-point checklist will help make sure you don’t get caught underwater or feel lost at sea during your journey. As for the traffic getting to the water? Unfortunately, we can’t help you there.
11-Point Boat Trip Checklist
1. De-winterize your boat.
A successful boating season begins with a successful commissioning. Remove the tarp or shrink wrap from the boat and inspect the hull for damage. After you’ve repaired any cracks or chips, channel your inner Mr. Miyagi (better yet, put the kids to work) waxing the boat’s topsides. Experts recommend marine paste-wax, said to last longer, protect better, and provide a nicer shine than other products.
Remember not to wax the non-skid sections of the boat. Give the whole interior, any metal, and the windshield a good cleaning. Change the wipers, if necessary.
2. Don’t forget to put the drain plug back in after cleaning!
This small but important step can make your first summer excursion a “sink-or-swim” endeavor, literally.
3. Check your boat’s engine and mechanical systems.
You could find yourself dead in the water if you forget to check your boat’s engine. Check the following for corrosion, condensation, dirt, and debris, cracking or other signs of wear-and-tear, and proper lubrication:
- Outboard cowlings
- Hose clamps and fittings
- Wiring and terminals
- Throttle and shift cables
- Steering cables or hydraulics
- Belts Spark plugs
- Engine zincs
Also, check all the fluid levels and quality. These should be checked when the boat is dry-docked for the season, but it’s a good idea to double check before taking the boat on the water. If you are new to boating or not mechanically inclined, you can always call a service professional to help out with any engine maintenance or repairs.
4. Get ready to fuel up.
First, check the fuel line and hose clamps for signs of cracking, wear, or other damage. Replace if necessary. Then add fuel.
5. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.
Before starting an outboard engine, you’ll need to connect a freshwater cooling supply. Once you start the engine, let it idle for about 15 minutes while you look for leaks, cooling problems or other issues. If everything seems to be running properly, you are halfway through our checklist and almost ready to hit the water.
6. Make sure all safety equipment is onboard and functioning properly.
Do you have flares, fire extinguishers and personal flotation devices (PFDs) on board? Are they still good or have they expired? Take a look at your anchoring gear to ensure it’s still in good working condition. Test your bilge blower and bilge pump. Let children try on their life jackets to make sure they still fit properly.
7. Give the whole family a boating safety review.
While you take inventory of your boat’s safety equipment, it’s also a good time to remind your children about boating safety. Make sure everyone who will be traveling with you knows how to access and use PFDs. Test children’s swimming skills and, even more importantly, make sure they know how to float and tread water. Warn children to stay away from the boat’s propeller, and never dive or jump into the water without an adult.
8. Stock the boat with all the necessities—and your favorite treats!
Make sure you have sunscreen, toilet paper, water, and a first aid kit on the boat. After these necessities are taken care of, make sure to pack a cooler with your favorite drinks, and bring plenty of snacks to enjoy during your excursion.
9. Check your trailer and tow vehicle.
The condition of your boat trailer and tow vehicle is just as important as the condition of your boat to your family’s safety and a successful boating excursion. Make sure your trailer’s registration and the tow vehicle’s registration and auto insurance are up-to-date. Test the trailer’s brakes and lights, including the brake and signal lights. Check all parts for signs of wear and tear, and replace or repair if necessary. Lubricate the hitch mechanism. Finally, check the treads and sidewalls on the trailer and tow vehicle’s tires (including spares) and inflate them to the proper pressure.
10. Get your paperwork in order.
Is the boat’s registration up to date and is it affixed to the boat? What about the registration for the trailer and tow vehicle? Is it time to renew your boat insurance?
It’s also a good time to consider getting your captain’s license. Not every boat requires the boater to have a captain’s license, but getting one could give you valuable knowledge that will make your boating excursions safer and more enjoyable. You may also be able to lower your boat insurance premiums if you have a captain’s license.
Before going to the expense and time it requires to get a captain's license, consider the following:
- While some insurance companies can require a captains license for boats based on length or weight in tons, it doesn't necessarily provide a discount as this also varies based on insurance provider.
- A captain's license may sound like a cool idea, but don't go into it lightly as there is a higher liability you take on if you do acquire it.
- Boating safety courses are a better bet for receiving a boat insurance discount. Check with your local Coast Guard for basic and advanced boating safety courses, and always verify with your provider as to which courses may provide an additional discount.
11. Shop around for the best rates on boat insurance.
It’s a new season of boating adventure. You could kick it off with lower boat insurance premiums and added benefits, such as a lower deductible or towing service if your boat is ever stranded at sea. Getting your captain’s license is one way to lower your boat insurance premiums. Safe drivers can sometimes get discounts on their boat insurance, as well as lower auto insurance premiums.
You may also bundle your home, auto, and boat insurance under one umbrella policy to save money. It pays to look into ways to lower your boat insurance premiums every season, giving you more cash to spend on summer fun.
Following our checklist before leaving the dock is the best way to have a fun and safe day on the water.