Based on United States law, you need to have basic boating equipment onboard at all times. Failure to do so will lead to hefty fines. The fines, however, ought to be only a minor reason for making sure you have everything you need onboard. There are other safety issues involved. The following checklist will ensure that you have all of the necessary boating equipment.
Federal Requirements for Boating Gear:
Registration Papers — You must carry the vessel’s state registration/documentation at all times. Additionally, you will want the photo ID of the boat’s owner or operator in case of a 911 call.
Life Jackets – These are required for each person onboard. Be sure to have jackets for people of all ages and sizes.
Throw able Flotation Device — If your boat is 16′ or larger, you are required to have one throwable device such as a life ring onboard.
Fire Extinguisher — If your boat has an enclosed engine or fuel tank, you must carry a fully charged Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher onboard. Check the federal law for larger vessels as additional fire extinguishers may be required.
Visual Distress Signals — Necessary for both day and night voyages, these signals must be within the expiration date.
Navigation Lights — Required for powered boats operating after sunset. Check the federal law for specific requirements.
Horn or Whistle — Required on all vessels in federal waters.
Flame Arrestor — Required equipment on all powered boats.
Other Helpful Boating Gear:
First Aid Kit — Include sunscreen and ointment as well as basic first aid supplies .
Tool Kit — Keep a flashlight and spare batteries in here as well.
Bilge Pump — Or other dewatering device.
Marine Radio — This should be considered a requirement on any powered vessel and is helpful on non-powered boats as well.
Chart and Compass — Unless you plan to stay very close to shore, the ability to plot and navigate your course is important.
Drinking Water and Snacks — Anything can happen in the open water, so you should be prepared for the worst. Bring water with you on any voyage, but also keep an emergency supply onboard. High protein, nonperishable snacks are also helpful in the event you become stuck for a period of time.
Boat Hooks, Boat Anchors, Proper Mooring Lines — Docking and undocking are often the most dangerous parts of a voyage. Utilizing the proper equipment during these procedures will minimize the risks and help to protect your boat from damage.
Boat anchors can actually save your life should your engine fail, while boat hooks can protect you from injuries or falls that are often sustained when boaters attempt to use their arms or legs to assist in docking.
The first list refers to boating equipment items that you are required to keep onboard at all times. The second list is filled with items that are considered optional. Preparation is the key to a successful voyage and that includes making sure that your boat is filled with the proper equipment.