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The Best Boating Advice


Published on 1/20/15 11:00 AM
A couple years ago, my friend and I decided to take my boat out on a local lake, intent on catching a state record lake trout and getting a tan. Excited, we threw together some fishing rods, a couple of life preservers, and adult beverages, and prepared to head out for a day of fun in the sun. About three minutes after launching the boat, we began taking on water and had to hand paddle back to the floating dock supplied by the lake. We stood there and watched in horror as my boat sank to the bottom. As it turns out, my friend had forgotten to insert the drain plug before we launched, and the boat had to be towed out of the water. While disappointing, this taught us a crucial boating lesson: always prepare and use a pre-departure checklist. 

What is a pre-departure checklist?

A pre-departure checklist is the foundation for a successful boating trip. Whether it is a two- hour cruise in a freshwater lake, or a multiple day journey to the Bahamas, the pre-departure checklist serves as a blueprint for safety and fun. My friend and I had previously snickered at my father who used a checklist religiously prior to launching his own boat; after all, we certainly knew better than a man with many years of boating experience and a couple dozen patents earned in the chemical engineering field. However, this experience taught me that his diligence was essential rather than overcautious. Each checklist should be individualized and based on variables like the boat size, journey length, and number of occupants. Some broad categories include personal flotation devices, lights and sound, documents, sound producing devices, distress signals, ventilation, oil and gas, bilges, battery care, and a recent weather forecast. There are a number of excellent pre-departure checklists available online including here, and here.

A successful outing requires a tremendous amount of preparation and planning, and no one should assume that they can memorize exactly what needs to be done every time they hit the water. Maximize your chances of having a great day with your boat and your guests by spending a few extra minutes before you launch and consulting your pre-departure checklist.

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