15 essential items to take boating

November 3, 2015

Being out on the water gives you freedom and fun, but boating can be unpredictable and dangerous, too. Even the most seasoned veterans can forget to pack supplies, so this handy checklist will help you make sure you never leave the dock without something crucial. These are the 15 most essential items no boater should ever be without.

15 essential items to take boating

1. Operator card and license

  • Your operator card ensures you won't get a fine, but the training it takes to receive it can be invaluable for handling yourself on the water.
  • Safety first!
  • And remember to keep a paper copy of the boat's operator license with you as well.

2. Personal flotation devices

  • It's mandatory by law to have one life jacket/personal flotation device for each passenger on board.
  • Many boaters do not keep their PFDs properly inspected and maintained, so make sure yours are in good shape and fully functional.

3. Fire extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is an essential boating item that needs to be operational and within easy reach at all times.

4. Bottles of water

  • Dehydration is your enemy, especially in times of emergency.
  • Keep a supply of water on board just in case.

5. Binoculars

Binoculars are useful for sightseeing, for spotting other crafts and for studying the landscape in case you lose your bearings.

6. Sunscreen

  • A supply of waterproof sunscreen is definitely an essential boating item.
  • Keep plenty of it around for sunny days.
  • Even if the sky is overcast and you can't feel the sun, solar rays reflect off the water's surface and can still do plenty of damage.

7. Signalling devices

  • Both visual and auditory signalling devices are essential for boaters.
  • Foghorns and a supply of good working flares will come in handy should you ever find yourself stranded on the water and needing to signal another watercraft.

8. First aid kit

  • Anti-seasickness pills are good to keep in any boat's medical kit just in case you have a newbie on board who's feeling a bit queasy.
  • Some basic essentials include antiseptic agents, gauze and other materials to wrap a wound.
  • It's also a very good idea to pack emergency prescriptions for anyone on board who has a medical condition and cannot go a long period without medication, such as a diabetic or someone with hypertension.

9. Non-perishable food

Even if you've brought a cooler that's packed with goodies, non-perishable food items like jerky and granola bars can be lifesavers in an emergency situation.

10. Backup navigation

  • GPS can fail, and cell phones don't always work (especially if they happen to get a little too wet!).
  • Make sure to pack nautical charts just in case technology lets you down, as well as a reliable military compass.

11. Bug spray

Insect repellent is a must-have boating supply, particularly during mosquito season!

12. Extra clothing, blankets and towels

Keep extra clothes, blankets and towels on hand for added warmth and to prevent colds in case of rain or if someone on board has been wet for a little too long.

13. Repair kit

  • No matter what kind of boat you have, you can create your own customized repair kit to fix things that might go wrong.
  • Multi-functioning wonder tools like duct tape, rope, extra oil, white vinegar to fix motor clogs, patching materials and a tool set are all items you should have on hand.

14. Waterproofing items

  • Most boats have items on board that absolutely must not get wet, so protect them with watertight storage supplies.
  • If you don't have any fancy marine boxes on board, zippered baggies can work in a pinch.

15. Flashlight

  • A very bright, well-powered flashlight is definitely something you don't want to go boating without.
  • Make sure to pack an extra set of batteries as well.
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