Boating season isn’t quite here yet, but it will sneak up faster than you realize. If you’re looking forward to heading out on the water on the first warm day you can, you need to be completely prepared.
Don’t head out onto the water unprepared – handle these 6 things ahead of time.
1. Replace worn or broken boat parts
Whether it’s a cracked seat, a broken ladder, or a loose dock cleat, get your boat in full working order before you leave land. If you don’t have a boat store nearby, you can get parts online for just about any boat. For example, you can find a variety of boat seats from Wholesale Marine for a decent price.
Certain parts need to be replaced for safety reasons, but others are good to replace for aesthetic reasons. Safety comes first, but caring about how your boat looks is still a good reason to fix it up.
2. Verify your licenses are up-to-date
Your boating license probably doesn’t expire, but check anyway just to be sure. Next, check your fishing and hunting licenses if you take your boat out to do either. You don’t want to get to your destination and find out the hard way that your license has expired.
In some states, the fines for fishing without a license are steep, and hunting is even steeper. Worse, if you catch a bunch of fish without a license in some areas, you won’t be able to bring them home.
While you’re checking your licenses, review the current rules for fishing to make sure you know exactly where you can fish and how many of each type of fish you’re allowed to catch. Don’t count on the rules being the same as they were last year because regulations change rapidly these days.
3. Check your safety gear and first-aid
Do you know where your flag is? Do you have a backup? If someone falls overboard, you’ll need that flag, so make sure it’s exactly where it’s supposed to be.
Are your ladders in good shape? Do you have a life raft of life preserver? Is the rope still attached and in good shape without being frayed or cut?
Also, check your first-aid kit to make sure it’s fully stocked and that anything with an expiration date is still good. Some things can be used past the expiration date, but not everything.
4. Get new flares and dispose of expired flares
Pyrotechnic flares will only last 42 months after they’ve been manufactured. Are your flares current? Don’t risk getting stuck on the water without working flares.
In addition to your standard stock, have some backups just in case. Remember that when it comes to preparedness, one is none, and two is one. If you have only one source of flares, and the whole batch is a dud, you don’t actually have any flares.
When disposing of expired flares, don’t just toss them into the trash. Save them and find a hazardous waste disposal company that will take them. Flares contain an abundance of toxic chemicals that are considered hazardous when released into the environment.
5. Check to make sure your life vest still fits
If you have a life jacket, make sure it still fits. If you don’t have one, get one and don’t go out on the water without wearing your life vest.
This is a big one. Many people don’t wear a life jacket on the water, and that’s understandable. They can be bulky and uncomfortable, but even good swimmers can drown when they aren’t wearing a life jacket.
Life jackets aren’t just for people who can’t swim. If you get knocked unconscious and fall overboard, a life jacket can save your life.
6. Get life vests for your pets
If you take your dogs or cats out on the boat, get them a life jacket, too. Dogs can usually swim, but they can also be taken under the water or knocked unconscious just like a human. The difference is, your dog can’t yell to let you know when they’re in trouble.
If you take your cat out on the water, they probably won’t like wearing a life jacket, but it’s an important piece of safety equipment for your fur babies.
Enjoy your time on the water
It makes sense to prepare now. When those warm days finally arrive, you’ll enjoy your time on the water, whether you’re going out for some peace and quiet, to go fishing, or to go wakeboarding.