The nights are staying lighter for longer and the beaches are becoming a hive of activity. Yes, summer is coming! And if you are a keen sailor you will be itching to get out on a boat day ASAP.
There is nothing like a boating adventure whether you are a novice sailor or an old hand. But if you haven’t sailed in a while or have a new boat, it is good practice to check your equipment and safety protocols are up to date first.
Not sure where to begin? This handy guide covers everything you need to consider before your first (and every) boat day back out on the water.
Ensure You Have the Correct Documentation
The first thing to check is that you have all the legal boat documentation and meet all the legal requirements. All states have different maritime laws because even landlocked states have lakes. Make sure you double-check yours.
No matter your state, most vessels need:
- Ship documentation
- Operator’s license
- Vessel safety certificate
You might also need park passes or fishing licenses depending on the activities you are doing on your boat day. If you have other documents and you are not sure you will need them, it is smart to have them handy anyway.
Store them in a plastic folder and attach them to the boat for safekeeping.
If you are sailing into open or foreign waters, everyone onboard will need a passport. You will also need to alert the proper authorities.
Check Your Safety and Navigation Equipment
As well as documentation, you also need the correct safety and navigation equipment for legal reasons.
This is what you should have on board before your boat day:
- Life jackets for every single person on board
- Life rafts
- Flares, and distress signals, searchlight, and horns
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher(s)
- GPS and radar technology
Your first aid kit should be well-stocked and in a waterproof case. As well as the usual bandages, band-aids, and antiseptic cream you will need boating-specific items. These include seasickness tablets, rehydration salts, and thermal blankets.
If you are not already, consider getting first aid trained. As a keen sailor, it is a vital life skill.
Plan Your Trip and Chart Your Course
Next is the fun part, to plan your boat day! If it is your first boating day of the year, you may want to keep things simple and not take your boat too far out of the marina.
If you have them, one of the advantages of Mercury propellers is the unexpected speed. They might allow you to explore more in a day than you thought.
Do your research. If you want to fish, find an area where they are biting. Or if you are into watersports like kayaking, find calm waters where you can explore without other vessels disturbing you.
If you are only interested in swimming or relaxing on board, you will not want to forget that anchor. Whatever you decide, alert any local authorities if you need to and notify your marina or wherever you store your boat.
Also, check the weather report the day before and the morning of your trip. Not only the regular weather report but the marine weather forecast too. Buoyweather is a favorite weather app amongst both android and apple sailors.
Check Your Vessel’s Systems
Before heading out on your boat day, you need to perform a boat check to ensure your boat’s systems are running a-okay.
Every ship captain should have a pre-sailing boat maintenance checklist. Use the following suggestions as a guide:
- Check the fuel and oil levels
- Bring more fuel onboard for long voyages
- Check the propellers
- Check the running gear
- Check the signaling equipment
- Check the electrics
- Check the mechanics e.g. anchor
- Check the vessel for leaks or damage
- Check mooring equipment
If nothing is wrong with your boat, these checks should take one hour at the most and will likely take much less. If you have already charted your course, you will know how much fuel you need. But it is always a good idea to have extra for emergencies.
Pack Provisions and Water Gear
Now for the fun part! You need to pack the essentials, food, and any gear you need for activities.
Let’s start with food. Pack provisions for your boat day in a picnic basket with a cooler. Boats offer little shade, so you need to keep your food fresh.
Opt for classic picnic food like sandwiches and fruit if you are boating with your children. If this is an adults-only boat day, pack a makeshift charcuterie board with deli meats, olives, and cheeses.
And, of course, you will need to pack plenty of water. Beer will not keep you hydrated!
Prepare for the sun by packing waterproof sunblock, sun hats, and sunglasses. You will need your swimsuits but bring spare clothes or a beachy cover-up for when you are out of the water. Towels are also a must.
And do not forget your snorkels or kayaks if you want to get out on the water. Tie everything down while you are sailing so you do not have to execute a rescue mission for an overboard oar.
Brief Your Shipmates
Right before you head out on the water, give your shipmates (AKA your family and friends) a brief safety talk. No one likes being the fun police but the sea presents lots of dangers so everyone needs to know what to do in an emergency.
You will need to point out where the safety equipment is and what to do with the ship if you become unable to carry out your duties as captain.
Prepare for a Boat Day With This Guide
There is no reason why you cannot enjoy a safe and fun boat day back out on open waters. As long as you follow this guide and make safety a priority, you only need to worry about not getting sunburn.
Want to learn about other cool topics? Check out our other how-to guides for more expert tips and advice!