Don't Forget the Keys

Fishing Boat

You will find many checklists for boaters:  Make sure the boat is in good shape, lines are not worn, the required safety equipment is on board, and so on.  I am not going to plow the same ground as those.  Rather, here are some things a little above and beyond the normal lists that we have found very important (click Up Button to return to the menu):

First Things First

First Things First


Equipment and Tools

Preparing for the Outing

Preparing for an Outing

At the Launch Ramp

In and Out at the Ramp

At sea

At Sea

Boating with Your Spouse

With your spouse


Safety-Related links

First Things First First Things First:  Now I know you've already gone out and gotten the water skis, the tube, the 48 gallon cooler, the life jackets, flares, and all that safety stuff they told you to buy in the USCGA or USPS class.  

What??  You didn't take the class?  Bookmark this page, log off the computer, and go take the class right now.  Then come back. If you are not sure how to find out about the classes, click here.

Now that you are finished with the class, continue to see some other things you may not have thought of.



Equipment Equipment and Tools:  These are things that I learned the hard way I needed to have:

Spare Prop (it takes five minutes to change one; it can take five hours to get in if you spin one).

A separate tool box for the boat, including

  • Hammer.
  • Assorted wrenches and screwdrivers.
  • Vice grips (one large, one small).
  • Tie wraps.
  • Grease gun.
  • Channel lock pliers.
  • Utility knife.
  • Wire, fuses, crimper, and crimp connectors.
  • Stainless steel nuts, bolts, and screws.

Spare drain plug (or two).

Electric meter.

Battery charger.

Spare bulbs if you are going to be out at night.

Charts and a waterproof chart envelope.

At least one spare line (that's rope to most of us--it only becomes a line when it's on a boat).

Floating keychain for the boat keys.  Spare key if you have one.


Wire (12 or 14 gauge twisted strand).



Preparation Preparing for an Outing:  You already know to make sure everything is shipshape, readily available, and in good operating order.  Here are a couple of things beyond the obvious that I always check.  Again, I learned the hard way.

Make sure the battery is fully charged.  Getting a battery jump at sea is a real pain.  (I like to attach the earmuffs, start the engine, and test it in both gears if the boat has been sitting up for a while.)

If you are trailering,

  • grease the wheel bearings frequently.  Losing a wheel on the road is no fun, and getting boats towed is expensive.
  • grease the hitch ball.
  • test the hitch to make sure it's properly seated a second time.

Check the trailer tail lights.

Oh, yes, remember the keys.  We keep them in the tow vehicle during the season.



At the Ramp In and Out at the Ramp:  You don't want your boat to become a submarine at the ramp, so make sure you install the drain plug.  In addition, remember to

Check the tides if you are launching in shallow water.

Choose a ramp you're comfortable with.  I like ramps with

  • easy approaches--no sharp turns between moored boats to get to the dock.
  • a dock along side the ramp.  It makes life a lot easier.

Get the boat ready to launch before backing down the ramp so as not to hold up others.

Leave the safety chain connected while you back down.  The boat that looks so graceful in the water looks pretty stupid on the concrete.

Back slowly.  You don't impress anyone by backing fast, and you do take the chance of turning a little, correctable mistake into a disastrous one.

Be patient.  Unless it's your own personal private ramp, be a good neighbor.  If someone is having a problem getting his boat in or out, help him, don't cuss him.  If someone is being a jerk, sit back, enjoy the show, and let him cut his own throat.

Find out how far down the pavement goes before you back down.



At Sea At Sea:  Your basic boat safety class from USPS or USCGA covers the, er, basics, so here is a list of my pet peeves.

"No Wake" means "No Wake."

Take it slow in unfamiliar territory.  Observe fellow boaters and use your charts.

No close calls.  If it's a tie, you lose.

"No Wake" means "No Wake."

The channel is not for

  • anchoring,
  • partying,
  • lunch,
  • drift fishing, or
  • fights with your spouse or children.

Boat defensively, just as you (should) drive defensively.  Be prepared for the persons around you to do the stupidest thing possible.  They probably won't, but, if they do, you will be ready.

"No Wake" means "No Wake."

Night time is not the time to open her up and see what she'll do.  She's likely to run into something before you can see it.

Spot lights are for docking or looking for that man overboard, not for running.

"No Wake" means "No Wake."



With Your Spouse With Your Spouse:  "For Men Only"

There are many women skippers out there, but it has been my observation that, in most cases of family recreational boating, the man does most of the boating stuff (or at least wants to do most of the boating stuff, so this is written from that point of view).

Boating with your spouse or girlfriend can be wonderful. At the same time, we have all heard of and, sometimes, witnessed horrible scenes at the launch ramp.  (We have never had such a scene in my family because my wife is too considerate--if she ever took an exception to something I did at the dock or ramp, she did so in private!)

Here are some do's and don'ts that can help make boating with your wife or girlfriend much more fun than boating with a bunch of sweaty, belching fishing buddies--much more fun.   Much, much more more fun. Some come from my own experience, some from watching and talking with others.    

You wife or girlfriend is not your crew.  Don't treat her that way.  If you're doing a tricky docking maneuver, for example, explain what the heck you are doing, what you want her to do, and why  you want her to do it. Before you start.

Get her to come to class with you if at all possible.  If not, encourage her to take the class for herself.  If she can't or won't, be ready to explain stuff, sometimes several times over.  Remember, us guys usually won't admit we don't understand something, especially if it has something to do with vehicles; it just ain't macho.  Women have no such inhibition.

Remember, also, that most of us guys have grown up around vehicles, watched navy movies on television, and maybe read a few pirate novels.  We start off, in most cases, knowing more than our wives or girlfriends about things that move. And we think we know more than we do.  Our wives are going to ask questions that expose our ignorance. Get used to it.  Take charge and admit when you are confused before she starts asking questions.

If you are a trailer boater, take especial heed to these warnings at the ramp.  You're not going to impress anyone by showing off, least of all you wife.  Heck, she already knows the worst about you; don't add to it with macho posturing.



Related Links Safety-Related Links:

Boat/US Online Boating Safety Course's Online Boating Safety Course

Commander Bob's Boater's Checklist

United States Power Squadron Online Boating Safety Course

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety Course Information



If you have any suggestions for this list, please email me


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