No matter how often you take out your boat, it’s important to complete an inspection of specific boat parts before every outing. This is because if you get stranded when you’re out on the water, it’s much more difficult to get help than if you’re stranded along the highway in your car. Even if you’re an experienced boater, a routine inspection of the most critical components of your vessel will ensure you return to shore safely each time you take it out.
Whether you’re using an old-fashioned compass or an advanced GPS system, take the time to make sure your navigational equipment is operational and in good condition. Most boaters these days have a GPS system on board their boats, so always turn yours on before setting sail to verify it’s working and doesn’t appear to have any glitches. You might also want to pin your current location before you set out to make sure you can get back safely if you lose your bearings.
Before you leave port, fire up your engine and listen for any irregularities. You’re making sure that not only does your engine work, but also that it doesn’t sound like it will stop working while you’re out on the water. If you take your boat out often enough, you’ll be able to hear any differences in how it’s running just by letting it run for a few minutes. Additionally, if you see any smoke or fluids coming from your engine, shut it down immediately and do not go out on the water. You’ll want to get your engine serviced as soon as possible before setting sail again.
Even if you’re planning to be back in port before it gets dark, you still need to make sure your lights are all working because you never know when a situation might arise that will delay your return. You do not want to try navigating back to the dock in pitch blackness, which not only makes it hard for you to see, but also makes it nearly impossible for other vessels to see you. For safety reasons, all of your lights should always be operational.
Never leave port without checking your communication equipment to ensure you can reach shore or other vessels in case of an emergency. You might think that you don’t need communication equipment if you already have a cellular phone, but there are places on the water where you might not be able to get a signal, which can spell disaster if you find your boat disabled. Invest in a reliable communication device that will work no matter where you are.
While all the components already listed could be considered safety equipment, this inspection item refers specifically to life vests and floatation devices. Always double check to make sure these safety devices are on board before you leave port and be sure to wear your life vest if required in your jurisdiction.
When you’re ready to head out on the water in your boat, you want to get out there as quickly as possible. But the few minutes you take to inspect these boat components could literally be the difference between life and death if an emergency occurs while you’re away from shore.