Safety Equipment & Checklist for Boats
Whether you’re fishing, wakesurfing, skiing, diving, day sailing, or overnighting on your boat, don’t forget to bring the necessary safety equipment. If you keep it onboard, make sure it’s in good working order by inspecting it on a regular basis. Although different items are required by the US Coast Guard for different types and sizes of vessels, there is certain fundamental equipment that will keep you safe and out of problems with the authorities.
This boating season, here are a few must-haves and should-haves to bring along.
5 Pieces of Boat Safety Equipment You Must Have
Wearable personal flotation devices and life jackets (PFDs)
A PFD (Type I, II, or III) that is easily accessible and worn must be available for each person on board. A PFD is also required if you are pulling a skier or have a wake surfer behind the boat. On a moving vessel, children under the age of 12 must always wear a life jacket. Similarly, anyone riding a personal watercraft (PWC) must always wear a life jacket. In the event of an emergency, the first thing you should do is make sure that all passengers onboard put on their life jackets right away—or, if you want to be proactive, you may propose that everyone onboard put them on right at the dock before departure. Your pet should also wear a lifejacket, even if it isn’t needed.
Learn more about choosing the right life jacket or PFD in How to Choose the Right Life Jacket or PFD, or visit the USCG for further information and resources.
Flotation devices that can be thrown
Aside from your life jackets, you’ll need at least one floating device (Type IV) that you can throw to someone in the water if they get into trouble. This can be a cushion, a ring buoy, or another device, and while only one is required, having multiple is preferable. Some of these equipment may include a line that can be used to draw someone closer to the boat and eventually out of the water.
Extinguishers are used to put out fires.
Extinguishers come in a variety of sorts and classifications, however to keep things simple, boats under 26 feet (including PWCs) require at least one B-1 type extinguisher, whereas boats 26 to just under 40 feet require two B-1 types or one B-2 type. Discuss how to use an extinguisher with your family and guests: pull the pin, press the handle, and aim at the base of the flames.
Devices for visual signalling
Visual distress signs are available in a range of packages, with varied requirements depending on the size of the vessel and even the state in where you go boating. Flares or evening signals are required on boats under 16 feet. Boats with a length of more than 16 feet must have visible signals for both day and night use. Orange or white smoke, as well as aerial light flares, are examples of pyrotechnic devices or flares that would qualify. Some flares can be launched without the use of a flare gun, while others require the use of a flare gun. A strobe light is another nighttime gadget, while flags can be used during the day. PWCs are not permitted to operate between sunset and morning, thus nighttime gadgets are not required.
Devices that emit audible signals
Sounds can attract assistance at any time of day or night, but they are especially useful in fog. Horns and whistles, whether portable or fixed, are considered sound-generating instruments for all boats. In situations of poor visibility, such as fog, larger vessels (above 39 feet) should also include a bell that can be sounded at regular intervals.