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#QuickTips- The Pre-Trip Checklist

By: Bill Jennings

Every aircraft pilot uses a checklist. It is comforting to know that when you push the engine throttles fully forward, you have not forgotten something. While a check list for boats may not be quite as critical as for planes, the same professional protocol applies and once you get into the habit, you will be surprised how much frustration you can save yourself.

Smart boaters should prepare two checklists. The first is a list of things to do before going to the boat and the second, the things you must do in the boat before departing. Because every boat is different and each trip will vary in length, checklists will vary. However, a typical example, of a checklist while at home would include checking weather, tides, winds, specific charts, drinking water, sunglasses, wallet, boat license, any special equipment for the trip, plus and your carry-on boat box.

Your carry-on boat box is a floating container that goes with you every time you go out in a boat. In mine I keep a knife, multi-tool, small binoculars, tape, flashlight, basic first aid, sun protection, whistle, lip gloss, pen, sweatshirt, registration, insurance, memberships, and boat keys.

Once you arrive at your boat there is always some pressure to get going so it is easy to miss something. Try asking a passenger or first mate to read your boat checklist while you review each item. This plan also fills in time for a passenger while waiting to depart.

Always start with the “Four Fluids." They are, fuel, oil, water and a check that nobody needs to go to the washroom. Other items on the list include life jackets, wipe rag, anchor, boat plug, bilge water, kill switch, extinguisher, paddle, bail bucket, throw line, seat position settings and switches. Many boats also require four minutes of bilge blower operation. After starting, check oil pressure and water flow/temp.

Few of us can recall all these things without the help of checklists. Write up your own personal checklist, beginning with the items I listed. A plastic sleeve will keep it clean for ongoing use.

Checklists are important for safe and enjoyable boating, but they serve another important purpose. Statistics tell us that about one person in six is apprehensive when boating. When they see your professionalism in action, they will become more relaxed and can better enjoy the day. Don’t go boating or flying without one.

You can get a more comprehensive safety checklist, including a downloadable 'Float Plan' for your boat, HERE.

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