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PA Boating Handbook
Pre-departure Checklist / Preventative Maintenance
Safe boat operation is coupled with preparation, prevention and practice. Each time before you start out on your next boating trip, follow these guidelines for maintenance, departure, trailering, launching and retrieving, docking, rules of navigation, night operation and anchoring.

To ensure a safe and problem-free boating experience, make a checklist of items similar to the one below and use it before each trip:

  • Life jackets: Examine each life jacket for condition and ensure you have the correct number on board.
  • Weather: Check the weather forecast for the area and timeframe you will be boating.
  • Float plan: Be sure to leave a float plan with a family member, friend, neighbor or a marina operator.
  • Fuel: Make certain you have enough fuel and know where you can refuel. Use the one-third rule: one-third tank for your trip, one-third tank to return to dock or launch ramp and one-third tank for emergency use.
  • Battery and fire extinguishers: Be sure the engine battery is fully charged and your fire extinguishers are properly charged.
  • Boat check: Use the checklist under “Preventative Boat Maintenance” to make sure your boat is in safe, operable condition.
  • Conduct an onboard safety discussion with passengers: Everyone on board needs to know in advance what is expected of them and where they can find needed equipment. The discussion should include information on the location and proper use of life jackets (PFDs), fire extinguishers, visual distress equipment and first-aid kit. Explain emergency procedures; rules prohibiting discharging waste overboard; basic operation of the marine radio (if one is installed); other items such as the operating, weather and/or water conditions, anchoring procedures, docking and line handling, and the dangers of falling overboard and being struck by the propeller.

Inspecting your boat and equipment before you launch or leave the dock can prevent many possible problems. Examine onboard safety equipment (life jackets, throwable devices (sizes and condition), fire extinguishers, bailers, anchor, etc.), motor, fuel, electrical systems, through-hull fittings and accessory attachments. Follow the owner’s manual for regular maintenance on the boat and equipment; this will pay off by minimizing problems afloat. Here are some other tips:

BoatHull condition:

  • Check for any cracks or crazing.
  • Ensure the hull sounds solid.
  • Pull on the transom to ensure that it is solid.
  • Make sure there is a drain plug and it is in place.
  • Drain all water from the engine compartment.
  • Check the bilge for any water. Check for cracks, around the fittings, above and below the waterline, and around chain plates, cleats, etc.

Rigging and sails:

  • Check for signs of wear or fraying.
  • Repair small tears or open seams by taping or sewing.
  • Keep lines clean and store in a dry area out of the sun.

Engines, fuel tanks and lines, mechanical:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance plan.
  • Check for fuel leaks from the tank, carburetor, engine compartment and fuel lines.
  • Check hose connections for leaks or cracks and make sure hose clamps are secure.
  • Examine the ignition safety switch and lanyard for wear and proper operation.
  • Check for proper operation of steering and other controls.
  • Drain the fuel tank at the end of the season or use a fuel stabilizer.

Check for signs of wear and corrosion:

  • Check for cracks or leaks.
  • Check for firm hoses, free of leaks and use double clamps.
  • Make sure the backfire arrestor is attached and serviceable.
  • Check belts, the battery for corrosion and anything unusual.
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