Underway Checklist

Starting Engine:

  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Before Starting Engine:

    • If gasoline inboard, run blower for at least four minutes.

    • Check lubricating oil.

    • Check fuel level.

    • Make sure buzzers sound on engine panel.

  • ​Large Boats – Open sea cocks, except overboard waste, close sea cocks if leaving boat unattended.

  • Visually inspect engine and bilge for leaks, loose items, etc.

  • Close engine/bilge hatch and run blower for 5 minutes prior to starting.

  • Lower engine or out drive.

  • Two stroke owners check oil in tank and visually inspect engine looking for any damage or issues.

  • Four stroke owners, visually inspect engine looking for any damage or issues. 

  • Verify safety lanyard/kill switch in proper position.  

  • Check that shifter is in neutral and throttle in correct position.

  • Once deemed safe, start engine.

  • Start engine. (see owner’s manual)

  • Check for oil pressure, volts and engine temperature.

  • Connect safety lanyard/kill switch to operator once underway.

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Underway Check: 
  • Always check the weather and leave a float plan behind 

    • Use the weather channels on your VHF radio.

    • Watch for changes in wind speed and cloud formations

  • All children under 13 years of age must wear US Coast Guard approved Personal Floatation Device (PFD) life.

  • Anyone being towed behind a vessel must wear a USCG approved PFD (wake board, tubing, skiing, etc)

  • Once underway, tidy up loose lines and gear.

  • Know the waters in which you are navigating.

    • Refer to local charts.

    • Stay within marked channels.

    • Be conscious of tides and currents.

  • Know the location of the nearest harbor or protected anchorage

  • Drink responsibly—especially if you are the boat operator!

    • The blood alcohol limit for boating is the same as that for driving a car - 0.08%.

  • Monitor fuel consumption and remaining fuel range

    • Use the “Three-Thirds Rule” (one-third outbound, one-third inbound, one-third reserve).

  • Operate in shallow water with drive tilted up.

  • When water depth in unknown proceed slowly and with caution.

  • Observe all speed and rule signs.

  • Inform crew of speed and direction changes prior to making them.

  • Always look behind and to the sides prior to direction or speed changes.

  • The person at the helm is responsible for all passengers and wake made by the vessel.

  • Stow safety equipment in an easily accessible location.

  • Use Navigation Lights 30 minutes before sunset and after sunrise.

  • Stay to the right of the channel when underway – never anchor in a channel.

  • Sailboats have the right of way while under sail only.

  • Monitor VHF radio Channel 16 for emergency traffic.

    • Be prepared to lend assistance if you are the nearest vessel.

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 Equipment for Boat
  • Safety gear – PFD’s, flares, horn, fire extinguisher, EPIRB etc.

  • VHF Radio and CELL phone

  • Binoculars

  • Charts and maps

  • Boat hook

  • Anchor

  • Paddle

  • Fenders (2 to 4)

  • Extra lines (dock and anchor)

  • Extra hull plug.

  • Extra set of keys.

  • Spare tire and bearing set for trailer.

  • Engine oil

  • Tool Kit

  • Flash light

  • Duct tape

  • Boat brush

  • Trailer coupler lock

  • Boat cover

  • Sun screen

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Click here to learn more about our boat safety education

It is the responsibility of the boat operator to know and follow all the navigation rules.

A navigation rule can be overlooked if necessary to avoid immediate danger. For a complete listing of the navigation rules, refer to Navigation Rules of the Road, published by the U.S. Coast Guard (COMDTINST 16672.2 Series) and available through the U.S. Government Printing Office or on the Web at www.navcen.uscg.gov.