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Pre-Departure Checklists for Boats, Personal Watercrafts (PWCs) & Non-Motorized Boats

Have you ever created your own packing list prior to leaving on a vacation or for a road trip? Or maybe you’re familiar with the process that pilots follow to complete a “pre-flight checklist” prior to take-off? This same basic concept can and should be applied to boating.

Prior to leaving the dock, or even leaving your house, you should walk-through a pre-departure checklist with your boat to ensure you have all necessary equipment onboard.

The type of vessel you own—whether that’s a powerboat, sailboat, non-motorized boat, or a personal watercraft—will help you determine which checklist you should use. Your vessel will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Class A: < 16ft., Canoe, Kayak
  • Class 1: 16 feet to < 26 feet
  • Class 2: 26 feet to < 40 feet
  • Class 3: 40 feet to < 65 feet
  • Personal Watercraft (PWC): Jet Skis, WaveRunners, and Sea-Doos

Before we dive into the details for each pre-departure checklist—which are conveniently located right within your KnowWake app—it’s important to understand the benefits of using a checklist prior to launch.

pre-departure checklist boating

5 Reasons Why You Should Use a Boat Departure Checklist

As with a lot of things in life, it never hurts to plan ahead and plan for the unexpected. There are some items that are legally required to be on a boat as mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), while there are other items that are highly recommended.

Regardless of whether an item is required or recommended, using a pre-departure checklist will help you in a variety of ways.

  1. Following a checklist will help you ensure you have all the legally required items on board in case of an emergency or if a vessel check needs to be performed by the USCG.
  2. You may find that there are items on the list that you didn’t know were necessary to have on a boat (i.e. distress signals, throwable floatation devices, first aid kit, registration decals, and more).
  3. Consistently following a checklist will help you keep your equipment up-to-date, in good condition, and will help you avoid missing an expiration date (for example, on a fire extinguisher).
  4. You’ll have an opportunity to check and double check that you have enough life jackets or PFDs (personal floatation devices) for each passenger onboard—and that they’re the correct size for each person.
  5. It will help you avoid forgetting something—duh! Whether that’s sunscreen, tow toys, life jackets, or whatever else may be on your list.

Using Boat Safety Checklists on KnowWake

Finding and using a pre-departure checklist for your boat is easy with KnowWake. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Open the KnowWake app and navigate to the main menu.
  2. Scroll down until you see “Checklists.”
  3. There are two safety checklists available—one for Class A, 1, 2 and 3 vessels, and one for Personal Watercrafts. Determine which checklist is appropriate for your vessel.
  4. As you perform your initial walkthrough prior launch, check off each required and recommended item as you ensure they’re onboard.
  5. And that’s it! You’re ready to hit the water.

While you can find each of these checklists within your KnowWake app, take a look below for a preview of items that are required and recommended for each boat class.

Class A, 1, 2, and 3

Required:

  • Life Jacket(s) for all passengers.
  • Throwable Floatation Device (Type IV)
  • Fire Extinguisher (USCG-approved B-1 type)
  • Visual Distress Signal (flare)
  • Sound Generation Device (whistle, horn)
  • Backfire Flame Arrestor (inboard only)
  • Ventilation Ducts (fuel, bilge)
  • Navigation Lights
  • Proper display of registration numbers, letters, decals

Recommended:

  • Anchor with sufficient line
  • Oars/Paddles
  • Bilge Pump
  • First Aid Kit/Sunscreen
  • VHF Radio
  • EPIRB (location beacon)
  • KnowWake 😎

Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Required:

  • Life Jacket(s) for each operating passenger.
  • Emergency engine cutoff lanyard (attached)
  • Fire Extinguisher (USCG-approved B-1 type)
  • Sound Generation Device (whistle, horn)
  • Backfire Flame Arrestor
  • Ventilation Ducts (fuel, bilge)
  • Proper display of registration numbers, letters, decals

Recommended:

  • Anchor with sufficient line
  • Bilge pump/dewatering device
  • Visual Distress Signal (flare)
  • First Aid Kit/Sunscreen
  • VHF Radio
  • EPIRB (location beacon)
  • KnowWake 😎

Ready to leave the dock and head into open water?
Download KnowWake before you go to run through the Pre-Departure Checklist.