Be Prepared To Hit the Water

There’s nothing worse than being miles offshore only to realize you’ve forgotten some of your most important equipment—or worse, your cooler of drinks that’s going to ensure that you have a good time and stay refreshed. No matter what was left behind, it’s frustrating and can even ruin your entire trip if you’re not adequately prepared. From minor annoyances to serious failures, having a pre-launch checklist can prevent any mishaps. What, though, should that checklist include?

Make Sure it Runs

It may sound silly, but if your boat is stored somewhere out of the water, your very first task will be starting the engine to ensure that it runs as it should. If you start loading up the boat and get it to the launch ramp before you try to run the engine, you might waste a lot of valuable time and energy getting a boat to the water that isn't going to go anywhere. It's highly unlikely that you’ll have issues, but it’s still a good habit. Plus, it will ensure that you’ve got the keys on you.

Stocking Supplies and Emergency Equipment

Before you launch your boat, you’re going to want to make sure it’s fully stocked and equipped with all of the safety gear, emergency supplies, and other essentials that you need. This includes things like:

  • Certified and approved life jackets and throwable life preservers

  • Emergency flares

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Horn(s)

  • Whistles for the life jackets

  • Proper navigation lights and shapes

  • Flashlight with spare batteries

  • Extra fuel

  • Basic tools

  • First-aid kit

  • Fenders

  • Extra dock lines

Battery charger for rechargeable batteries and devices
In addition to these emergency supplies, consider carrying some spare parts with you in case something goes wrong while you are away from the dock:

  • Spare drain plug

  • Spare prop with hardware

  • Spark plugs

  • Engine oil and lubricant for gears

  • Hub and bearing set for your trailer

Half of the fun of boating is never having to worry about whether something might go wrong because you are prepared. By stocking your boat with the appropriate spare parts and emergency supplies, you’ll be able to trust that you’re in the best position to have the most fun on the water, no matter where you’re going or what type of activities you have in mind.

Check the Weather

Although it might seem obvious, your pre-launch should always include a thorough check of the weather, not only where you are launching from, but wherever you will be going during your excursion. Even if you’re only going a few miles offshore, the weather can change drastically and quickly, so it’s important to be prepared ahead of time. You should also carry a reliable weather radio that is designed for boaters onboard and have spare batteries available.

Trailering and Launching

If your boat is stored out of the water and not already trailered, you will need to make sure that you trailer it securely and properly to transport it to the water. Make sure that you connect all the safety chains and the wiring for the lights and check the lights to make sure that all of them are in working order before you depart. Double-check your tie-down straps and the condition and PSI of the tires on the trailer. When you're sure the boat is secure, and the trailer is ready to roll, you can hit the road.

Before hitting the launch ramp, you'll want to remove your tie-downs and disconnect the trailer lights but ensure that the trailer is still secured to your vehicle. Double-check and triple-check for the DRAIN PLUG that should be properly secured at the bottom of the boat. Now, you can back your trailer down the boat ramp, release the winch, and let your boat float right into the water. Park your vehicle, and you'll be on your way to a great time with peace of mind, knowing that you prepared accordingly.

Other Tips and Insight

Not only should you be reading up on helpful tips and checklists for boating, but you should physically be making your own. Having an actual list that you can go through and check off to ensure that everything has been taken care of will make all the difference. It might seem redundant, or even a bit tedious, but when you aren’t missing something important, you’ll thank yourself.

Another important topic is taking care of your battery in between trips. Not only will you want to fire up the boat before you bother moving it from storage, but you’ll also want to make sure that the power is running to the entire boat. If you’ve got a dual-charging system in place, be sure that your switch is in the right position. Make sure that you have spare batteries on board for all your electronics, or a charger if you’re using rechargeable devices or batteries.

One very important part of getting ready to hit the water that is often overlooked is more critical than most people think—letting your passengers and crew know where all safety and emergency devices and equipment are located. It does no good to have a boat that is ready for anything if people don’t know what to do in the event of an emergency. Safety discussions aren’t fun, but they’re necessary if you want to have fun with the rest of your boating. Just go over the basics with everyone before you take off.

Preparation is the Key to Boating Enjoyment

As you can see, the biggest thing that you can do to ensure that you have the best time on the water is to get prepared. Boating is a lot of fun, but getting ready is also a little bit of work. Take the time to come up with a routine that works for you, and it will be much easier to remember everything that you need to do. Whether you’re new to boat ownership or you’ve been doing it for years, there’s never a bad time to improve your boating habits.

Written by: Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a writer, published author and avid bass angler who lives on the shores of Lake Fork in East Texas — the top bass lake in Texas and the fifth in the nation. For the past 10 years, she and her husband have enjoyed the pontoon boat lifestyle while fishing a lake that not only has bass but beautiful wildlife as well. She holds a BS in Agribusiness/Equine Business and regularly contributes articles to, YachtWorld and Boat Trader.