Boat Safety Checklist

Are you looking to head out on the boat for the summer? Regardless if you’re operating a vessel for the first time or looking for a refresher on boat safety, we have you covered with some boat safety tips so you can enjoy yourself on the water.

Don’t Drink and Boat

Just like in your car, drinking alcohol while operating a boat is extremely dangerous and could result in harming yourself or others. And if that wasn’t a big enough deterrent, drinking and boating above the legal limit are considered a federal offense that can earn you jail time, which can result in a very hefty fine (anywhere from $1,000-$5,000) and get your boating rights revoked. In short—don’t drink and boat, please.

Life preserver or life jacket for boat safetyBoat Safety Checklist

There are several things you can bring along with you on your boat that can seem simple but will help you in potentially complicated situations.

  • Life jacket – Everyone should always be wearing a life jacket when on the water.
  • Fire extinguisher – Should a fire break out on board, you’ll be thankful you brought one of these along!
  • First aid kit – Regardless if you have a small scrape or a serious injury, a first aid kit can make all the difference when waiting to get back ashore for medical assistance.
  • Communication – Bring both an RHV radio and a cell phone in case you need to call for help. Don’t forget portable phone chargers.
  • Tool kit – Minor mechanical issues can keep you safe and afloat until you’re able to get back to land.
  • Flashlight – Even if you plan on only boating during the day, a flashlight can help you see any mechanical issues below the hatch.

Life Jackets

Everyone should be wearing a life jacket when boating. In a man overboard situation, it can be a difference of life or death. All children under the age of 13 are required by law to have a life jacket at all times when on the water.

Weather Watch

Check the radar before you set sail to keep safe from potentially inclement weather. Those that have been stuck on open water during a large storm put themselves in a precarious situation. Storms are known to capsize boats, and between the strong currents, undertow, and high-waves, even the strongest swimmers will be in major trouble.

Boat Safety Course

Although you do not need to have a special license for boating, the state of Ohio does require you to take a boater safety course. You can take the course online and is approximately 3 hours long. Upon completion, you will print a certificate that should be carried with you along with your US driver’s license in case law enforcement should ask.

Pre-launch Boat Safety Checklist a mechanic checking the boat propeller

Before launching your boat into the water, you should do a brief maintenance check to ensure everything runs smoothly and safely.

  • Fuel- Always check your fuel before you’re on the water. It would be a massive waste of time to get your boat in the water and realize you’re about to run out of gas! Not to mention the dangers of being stranded in open water.
  • Navigation lights (at night) – You will need your navigation lights if you plan to boat at night. Navigation lights not only allow you to see but also allow others to see you!
  • Cracks, Dings, and Dents in the hull and/or Propellers- Double-check everything looks safe and in one piece before putting it in the water.
  • Engine and Drive Oil- Check to see if you have enough oil and that your drive oil has no moisture in it.

Slow Down and Follow Signs

Like operating any land vehicle, it’s important to slow down and be mindful of signs, not only to protect yourself but anyone else near you in the water. Speeding can cause slow reaction times, and there is often debris floating in the water that can find its way into your path.

You also need to be conscious of your speed in wake zones. Speeding into another boat’s wake can bump the boat upwards and cause your passengers to go flying. Speeding also causes a dangerous wake that can harm others.


If you’re going to participate in water sports like water skiing, tubing, etc. that requires someone to be tethered to your boat, you’re going to need a spotter. A spotter monitors both you and anyone outside the boat. If an accident happens, a spotter will call out any issues so you can slow down or stop.

Tether Up

Always be sure to tether your boat or drop your anchor if you’re getting out to swim. Having your boat float away can cause a lot of issues like letting it potentially drift into other swimmers or boats and can leave you stranded in open water.

Sun Safety

Hot temperatures and the sun reflecting off the water make sun poisoning, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke real dangers for boaters. Make sure you bring plenty of fresh, clean water and plenty of high SPF sunblock.

Boat Insurance

Accidents are still bound to happen, no matter how much you prepare. That’s why it’s important to have boat insurance on your watercraft. You can insure recreational boats with full or liability-only coverage. Options include theft and damage protection, medical payments coverage, trailer coverage, and water sports liability.

Need specialty vehicle insurance for your boat? Talk to a AAA Insurance agent today.

One Reply to “Boat Safety Checklist”

  1. You should really talk about Carbon Monoxide poisoning, it’s a real danger that all boaters should be aware of.

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