Basic New Boat Safety Gear - 06/19/2019

See this video covering all of the basic safety gear you need.

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
Before you head out for a day alone, or with family and friends, some simple steps can help keep you safe.

When first buying a boat, equipping it can often seem daunting. But like a lot of things in boating, the reality is not as particularly difficult once a little guidance is given. Tracker Boats probably sells more boats and works with more first-time buyers than any builder, so it knows the questions people ask. Check out its video on the subject of safety equipment.

Pre-Flight Checklist. Boat ownership is in some ways similar to piloting an airplane. Before ever thinking about taking off, pilots always perform a pre-flight inspection. We recommend that boat owners and operators practice the same procedure.

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
A checklist is a recommended way to ensure that everything that is required, needed or just wanted, is onboard and ready for use.

Checklist. What is required equipment to carry on a boat varies from state to state. And in some cases, there are local directives and laws. Check with your local authorities about regulations in your area.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s boating safety resource center,, is a handy reference for creating a checklist for all types of recreational boaters.

Your checklist should include all of your boat’s recommended day checks, such as fuel and oil, mechanical wear points, and lubrication ports. These vary in accordance by vessel and propulsion system. Your owner’s manual is a great resource for determining what needs to be included on your checklist.

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
Operating at night or during restricted visibility, requires working navigational lights.

Navigation Lights

Bow Lights. Bow lights are green to the starboard side and red to the port side. They shine from dead ahead to 112.5-degrees aft on their respective sides. They can be separate lights or a single unit.

All-Round Lights. All motor vessels must have a white light mounted at the highest point that is visible for 360-degrees. It can be a combination of a single “one-light” or a combination of mast head light and stern light.

Rules of the Road. The Amalgamated International – United States Inland Navigation Rules or more commonly referred to as the COLREGS provide all of the rules of the road and regulations for recreational and commercial navigation. Click here for a printable version.

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
When at anchor or drifting with the motor(s) off, the bow lights should be extinguished and the “anchor” light should be on. In many small boats this is the all-round “one light” mounted at the highest point that shines 360-degrees.

Life Preservers

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
Life preservers come in various types and are frequently referred to as Personal Flotation Devices or PFDs. Federal regulations require that there be a PFD for every person aboard and that they all fit properly.
Basic New Boat Safety Gear
This image shows a PFD that is too big and will not properly support the person wearing it. She would most likely slip out of it when needed.
Basic New Boat Safety Gear
This image shows the same person in an appropriate PFD fitted correctly.

Regulations. Federal regulations require that all children under the age of 13 must wear an approved, properly-fitted PFD at all times when underway on a boat. State and local laws vary, so be sure to check with local authorities before leaving the dock.

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
Every boat over 16’ (4.87 m), except canoes and kayaks, must have an approved class 4 throwable device. Shown are examples of the most common style, a cushion with straps for throwing and assisting the person in the water. The throwable device is not counted as a PFD and must have APPROVED printed on it.

Fire Extinguisher

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
Workable fire extinguishers are required on any boat with enclosed fuel or engine spaces, enclosed living spaces, or permanent (not movable by one person) fuel tanks.
Basic New Boat Safety Gear
Workable means the fire extinguisher must be within its expiration date and the indicator needle must be in the green area.

Fire Extinguisher Regulations. There are regulations on the size, type, and quantity of fire extinguishers based on the type and size of the vessel. Your local United States Coast Guard Auxiliary or local Power Squadron can help so you can get exactly what you need.

Signaling Devices

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
Having approved signaling device(s) is another requirement. The minimum is a horn or whistle. Flares are required on certain large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes or open ocean.

Flares. Flares are dangerous. Treat them like a gun. Study the instruction label and warnings, and stow them where young people cannot reach them. Never point them at a person or boat.

Recommended Equipment

Basic New Boat Safety Gear
To keep everyone safe and comfortable, we recommend that you have several items aboard when out on the water.

  • First Aid Kit. A well-stocked first aid kit is invaluable when needed. But it’s only helpful if it’s inventoried regularly to make sure it carries the necessities, and expiration dates have not passed. A smartphone calendar is a terrific way to set reminders like this.
  • Anchor and Line. All boats must have at least one anchor suitable for holding securely in wind and sea-state. The type of bottom – mud, grass, sand, or rock – requires different styles of anchor. Some anchoring situations also call for more than one anchor to be used simultaneously. Also it’s a good idea to inspect the tackle on all anchors occasionally, before it’s needed in an emergency.
  • Alternative Propulsion. A paddle or other form of backup propulsion. Depending on boat size, a trolling motor or kicker can serve this purpose.
  • Line for Towing. However, a good thing to have if you need to be towed or elect to tow another stranded boat to safety. (not shown in graphic) Make certain it’s in good shape or replace it.
  • Communication Devices. A VHF and a cell phone are recommended to communicate with fellow boaters or connect with authorities in an emergency. A radio check is always a good idea before leaving the dock. Also, spare batteries are a good idea.
  • Manual Bailer. For small leaks, a manual bailing device is recommended. A manual pump is a good idea too.
  • Tools and Spare Parts. Spare parts including an array of fuses and a basic mechanic’s tool kit can be handy when needed.
Basic New Boat Safety Gear
It is also recommended to carry a supply of water and food stored in sealable containers. If you find yourself temporarily stranded, it is easier to manage if you are not hungry or thirsty.

With the aforementioned required and recommended equipment on board and checklist, your day on the water should be safe and enjoyable.

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Thank you! This video and content are courtesy of White Water Marine, maker of Mako, Nitro, Regency, Tahoe, Sun Tracker, and Tracker boats.