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Have You Checked Your Boat Safety Equipment?

Boat Safety  by Debbie Kay

As summer heats up, it’s definitely time to pull out the boat and head out on some warm-weather fishing days.  While you are prepping your tackle box and making sure that everything you need is there and up-to-date. It may be time to check your boat safety equipment as well.   This is not only a good way to stay safe in an emergency, it will also stop a routine Coast Guard inspection from ending your fishing trip early.  Here is a look at what you need to consider as you ensure that you have everything you need:

PDFs are Boat Safety Number 1

Personal Flotation Devices, or PDF’s, are one of the most important things to have on a boat, particularly if you are fishing far from shore.  In many cases with an open skiff and a small lake, there are boat cushions that will double as PDF’s and work fine.  However, you want to check your state’s rules when it comes to having kids on board. As the water gets bigger or your activity gets faster (like tubing or waterskiing), your need for a life jacket will get bigger too.  The rules for life jackets vary by state, so be certain to check your local requirements.

If you plan on boating with your kids, also double check that their life jackets still fit and that they don’t exceed the weight requirements listed on the jacket.  Finally, be sure to have one for everyone on the boat.  Kids under sixteen must wear theirs in most cases. Everyone must have one in reach whether they wear them or not.


Even if you only go fishing in the middle of the day, you need properly functioning lights on your boat.  Be certain that you have all of the lights required for your vessel type and size. Double check that they work.  If you have a boat with indoor storage, it doesn’t hurt to carry a couple extra bulbs of the right type and size, so that you can quickly fix them if they go out on you.


If you are on certain water types or have a large enough boat, you will also need signaling capabilities.  This often includes a horn, and may also include flares.  Many people don’t realize that flares expire. Be certain to do an annual check on them if you are required to carry them.

VHF Radio

If you have anything larger than an open skiff or bass boat, you probably have a VHF radio on board.  If you have one that doesn’t work, then you probably have a vessel size that requires it. If you go on larger waters, you will need to have it repaired or replaced.


If you have a smaller, open boat or a personal vessel like a canoe or kayak, be sure that you have some form of bailer to help you if you spring a leak or get swamped by a rogue wake.  Many shops dealing in personal watercrafts like kayaks and canoes offer small but effective versions the size of a portable bike pump. What are your boat safety checks? Leave a comment.