There are many ways that you can ensure safety as well as enjoyment as a boat operator. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with safety equipment and consider items that will provide piece of mind while using your vessel.
First, always ensure that you have the valid Certificate of Number or registration card while the boat is in use. This will allow you to prove registration and ownership.
You should keep at least one wearable life jacket for each person on board your boat. The life jackets must be U.S. Coast Guard-approved, which will be indicated on the label. They also must be the appropriate size for each person and in good condition. A life ring or flotation cushion must be kept on board for vessels 16 feet or longer.
In the case of an emergency, a whistle and an emergency light are necessary. Emergency lights come in many varieties such as strobe lights that can be attached to the boat, lantern-styles, and utility style for bright, adequate illumination.
Distress signals are required for boat use as well, such as an orange distress flag (used by day only), or signal flares (for use by night).
Another required item to keep on board is a fire extinguisher. Although you are surrounded by water, it is still necessary to keep a fire extinguisher handy in case of a fire while under way. Be sure that you have the correct type for your boat, meeting the minimum requirements for the size and type of your vessel.
There are some situations in which you may need to make lots of noise, besides that of the laughter and fun from passengers on board. In meeting, crossing or overtaking situations, sound signals are required, particularly during times of reduced visibility or while at anchor. You will need to keep at least one sound producing device available, such as a bell, a whistle, air horn or gong.
To aid in navigation, it is helpful to keep a waterproof map available for reference. Many boats come equipped with GPS, which is the most convenient way to navigate waters, but in the absence of GPS, keeping a waterproof map would ensure efficient navigation.
Waterproof maps also inform you of any marine hazards, general configuration and character of the lake floor, and will include prominent landmarks and port facilities.
Besides safety equipment, there are many things that you can keep on your boat that will ensure comfort and convenience. A VHF Radio would be used for communication and emergency traffic, and an AM-FM radio would be great for your favorite tunes or to catch up on local news.
A compass is a great idea to keep on board, as well. You can purchase a magnetic compass to ensure that your boat is pointed in the right direction at all times.
Be sure to always keep a tow line on board, and that it is an efficient length. 75′ is recommended, by at least 1/2″ thick. A small marine tool kit and spare parts would come in handy should you ever find yourself in a situation that requires repair.
Waterproof flashlights in various sizes and styles can be purchased as well and would be easy to tuck into a small space out of the way, and don’t forget extra batteries. Extra fuel is a plus, as well as a First Aid Kit, cell phone, (in a waterproof case), personal identification and binoculars.
To ensure personal comfort, carry with you a change of clothes and foul weather gear such as a poncho or rain jacket. Also keep sunscreen, bottled water and snacks, in order to combat UV rays, and stay hydrated.
To make things easy for yourself, create a Pre-Departure Checklist to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything once you’re underway.
Preparation is key to having a great time, and with proper safety and convenient equipment, you can enjoy hours on your boat in relaxation, fun and pleasure.