what should i always have on my boat 2
what should i always have on my boat 2

Ah, the open waters and the thrill of sailing! Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a newbie setting sail for the first time, there are a few essential items you should always have on your boat to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

From the practical to the downright necessary, we’ll take you through a list of must-have items every boat owner should have on board.

So, before you set sail into the great unknown, let’s ensure you’re well-prepared for whatever adventure comes your way!

Safety Equipment

Life Jackets

Life jackets are essential safety equipment that should always be available on a boat. They provide buoyancy and help keep individuals afloat in case of an emergency.

It is crucial to ensure that there are enough life jackets for every person on board and that they are the appropriate size and fit for each individual. Life jackets should be easily accessible and easily identifiable with bright colors or reflective tape.

Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is an absolute necessity on any boat. Fires can spread rapidly in a confined space like a boat, so having a working fire extinguisher can save lives and prevent extensive damage.

It is essential to regularly inspect and maintain the fire extinguisher to ensure it is in proper working condition. Additionally, it is crucial to know how to operate the fire extinguisher and understand the different types of fires it can effectively extinguish.

First Aid Kit

Accidents can happen anywhere, including on a boat. A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for handling minor injuries and potentially saving lives in more severe situations.

The first aid kit should contain bandages, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and necessary prescription medications. It is crucial to regularly check the expiration dates of the items in the first aid kit and replenish supplies as needed.

Emergency Flares

In the event of an emergency, having emergency flares can significantly assist in signaling for help. Flares are used to create bright, visible light that can be seen from a distance.

It is essential to familiarize oneself with the proper usage of flares and store them in a dry, easily accessible location. Regularly check the expiration dates on flares and replace them as necessary.


Having throwable devices such as a lifebuoy or a rescue ring on board is essential for assisting water rescues.

These devices can be thrown to a person in distress to give them something to hold onto while waiting for further assistance. It is important to securely store the throwables in a location that is easily accessible in case of an emergency.

Bilge Pump

A bilge pump is used to remove water that accumulates in the bilge of a boat. This is especially important for boats that are prone to taking on water due to rain, leaks, or other reasons.

Having a functional bilge pump on board is crucial to prevent the boat from sinking or becoming unstable. Regularly inspect and maintain the bilge pump to ensure it is in proper working condition.

Navigation Tools


A compass is a fundamental navigation tool that helps determine the direction and heading of a boat. A compass on board is essential for navigation purposes, especially when visibility is low or electronic navigation systems fail. It is essential to ensure that the compass is calibrated correctly and installed where it can be easily read.


A GPS (Global Positioning System) or a chartplotter is a valuable tool for accurate navigation and determining a boat’s position on the water. These devices use satellite technology to provide real-time location information, maps, and navigational data. A GPS or chartplotter on board can significantly enhance safety and help avoid navigation hazards. It is essential to regularly update the GPS or chartplotter with the latest maps and software.

Navigational Charts

Nautical charts, whether in paper or electronic format, are essential for navigation on the water. They provide detailed information about water depths, navigation aids, potential hazards, and other essential features. It is essential to have up-to-date navigational charts specific to the area where the boat will be operating. Familiarize yourself with reading and interpreting charts to ensure safe navigation.

Depth Sounder

A depth sounder, also known as a depth finder or echo sounder, helps measure the depth of the water beneath a boat. This information is crucial for navigating shallow or unfamiliar waters, as it helps avoid running aground or hitting underwater objects. It is important to regularly calibrate the depth sounder and understand its accurate readings about the boat’s draft.


Binoculars help spot distant objects, landmarks, and other boats on the water. They can be invaluable for navigation and maintaining situational awareness while boating. A pair of binoculars on board can help identify potential hazards, maintain visual contact with other vessels, and assist in search and rescue situations. Choose binoculars with appropriate magnification and quality lenses for precise and accurate viewing.

What Should I Always Have On My Boat?

Communication Devices

VHF Radio

A VHF (Very High Frequency) radio is an essential communication device for boaters. It allows communication with other boats, marinas, and emergency services in case of distress or other communication needs. VHF radios are effective for short-range communication and are monitored by the Coast Guard and other relevant authorities. It is essential to obtain the appropriate license to operate a VHF radio and to familiarize oneself with the proper usage protocols and emergency channels.

Cell Phone

While not a dedicated marine communication device, a cell phone can still be valuable for communicating on a boat. Cell phones can make emergency calls, contact nearby vessels or marinas, and access weather information. Ensuring that the cell phone is fully charged and protected from water damage is essential. Remember that cell phone reception may be limited in remote or offshore areas.

Emergency Beacon

An emergency beacon, such as an EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon) or a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), is crucial for alerting rescuers in a life-threatening emergency. These devices emit a distress signal that satellites can pick up and relay to search and rescue organizations. Registering and adequately maintaining the emergency beacon and familiarizing oneself with its operation is essential.

Anchoring Gear


An anchor is used to secure a boat in one place by resisting drifting or moving with the current. It is essential to have an appropriate anchor size and type for the boat’s size and the seabed conditions. Familiarize yourself with different anchor types, such as fluke or plow anchors, and the proper techniques for anchoring.


A chain is typically used with an anchor to provide additional weight and help prevent the anchor from dragging. The chain also helps to absorb shock loads and improve the overall anchoring system’s effectiveness. It is essential to ensure that the chain is in good condition, adequately attached to the anchor, and the appropriate length for the boat’s size and the anchoring depth.


A rope, also known as an anchor line or rope, is essential for attaching the anchor to the boat and providing the necessary length to reach the seabed. It is essential to have a rope specifically designed for anchoring, as it needs to be strong, durable, and resistant to abrasion. Regularly inspect the anchor rope for signs of wear and replace it if necessary.


A windlass is a mechanical device used for raising and lowering the anchor. A windlass on board can significantly ease the physical effort required for anchoring, especially on larger boats or in challenging conditions. Maintaining and regularly testing the windlass is essential to ensure it is in proper working condition. Familiarize yourself with the operation of the windlass and any associated safety features.

What Should I Always Have On My Boat?

Tools and Spare Parts


A multi-tool is a compact and versatile tool that combines multiple functions into one handy device. A multi-tool on board can be handy for various tasks, such as minor repairs, opening cans or bottles, cutting ropes, etc.. Look for a multi-tool with essential tools like pliers, knives, screwdrivers, and a saw.


Having a set of screwdrivers on board is essential for handling various repairs and maintenance tasks.

Different types and sizes of screws may be found on a boat, so having a wide range of screwdrivers will ensure you have the right tool for the job. Choosing high-quality screwdrivers that are durable and made from corrosion-resistant materials is essential.


Pliers are versatile tools that can be used for gripping, cutting, bending, and twisting objects. They are indispensable for handling tasks such as tightening or loosening nuts and bolts, cutting wires, and repairing various components. It is essential to have a selection of pliers, including needle-nose pliers, regular pliers, and wire cutters, to cover a range of tasks.


Wrenches are essential for working with nuts, bolts, and other fasteners on a boat. It is essential to have a variety of wrench sizes to handle different sizes of fasteners. Adjustable wrenches can also help handle various sizes without needing multiple wrenches. Additionally, having a pipe wrench or adjustable pliers can be beneficial for handling larger fasteners or more challenging tasks.


Electrical systems on boats can be prone to shorts or overloads, which can lead to electrical system failures or even fires. Having a selection of fuses on board is essential for quickly replacing blown fuses and restoring electrical functionality. Ensuring that the fuses are the correct size, type, and rating for the specific electrical circuit they are protecting is crucial. Familiarize yourself with the electrical system and keep spare fuses of different ratings readily available.

Fuel Filters

Fuel filters help remove impurities and contaminants from the fuel supply, ensuring that clean fuel reaches the engine. Having spare fuel filters on board is essential for replacing clogged filters and preventing engine damage or performance issues. It is essential to regularly inspect and replace fuel filters as the manufacturer recommends or based on usage and fuel quality.

Proper Lighting

Navigation Lights

Navigation lights are required by law and indicate a boat’s position and heading to other vessels. Properly functioning navigation lights are crucial for safe nighttime navigation and visibility in limited visibility conditions. It is essential to regularly check and maintain the navigation lights, ensuring they are correctly aligned, visible from all angles, and by maritime regulations.


A flashlight is a valuable lighting tool that should always be available on a boat. Choosing a waterproof and durable flashlight that provides a bright beam for illuminating dark areas or signaling for help is essential. Keep spare batteries or a charging method for the flashlight on board to ensure it remains functional when needed.

Extra Batteries

Extra batteries are essential for powering various electronic devices and equipment, such as flashlights, radios, and navigational aids. Choosing high-quality batteries that are appropriate for the specific devices and have a long shelf life is crucial. Regularly check and replace batteries to ensure they are always available when needed.

What Should I Always Have On My Boat?

Proper Clothing and Gear

Life Jackets

Life jackets are vital safety equipment and should be worn by everyone on board when out on the water. Properly fitting life jackets appropriate for each person’s size and weight should always be available. Ensure that the life jackets are easily accessible and in good condition. Remember, wearing a life jacket significantly increases the chances of survival in an emergency.

Rain Gear

Rain gear, such as waterproof jackets and pants, is essential for staying dry and comfortable while boating in inclement weather. Getting soaked can lead to discomfort, hypothermia, and reduced focus on operating the boat safely.

Choosing rain gear that is breathable, waterproof, and has proper insulation for the specific weather conditions expected while boating is essential.


Spending time on a boat often means prolonged sun exposure, leading to sunburns, skin damage, and an increased risk of skin cancer.

Applying sunscreen with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) protects the skin from harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen and apply it generously to exposed skin before and during boating activities.


They wore sunglasses while boating is essential for protecting the eyes from the sun’s glare, which can cause eyestrain, discomfort, and impaired vision.

Choose sunglasses with UV protection and polarized lenses to minimize glare and enhance visibility on the water. Additionally, consider eyewear with a strap or floating capability to prevent loss if it accidentally falls overboard.


A wide-brimmed hat is a valuable accessory for protecting the face, neck, and ears from the sun’s direct rays. It provides shade and helps prevent sunburn and heatstroke. Opt for a hat made from breathable material and a secure fit to withstand the wind while boating. Consider hats with built-in UV protection for added sun safety.

Non-Slip Shoes

Proper footwear maintains stability and grip on a boat’s slippery surfaces. Non-slip shoes with rubber soles are ideal for boating, as they provide traction and help prevent slips and falls.

Avoid wearing flip-flops or shoes with smooth soles, as they can be hazardous on wet surfaces. Choosing comfortable, water-resistant shoes suitable for the specific boating environment is essential.

Food and Water

Drinking Water

An adequate supply of drinking water is essential to stay hydrated while boating. Dehydration can occur quickly when exposed to the sun and wind for extended periods.

It is essential to bring enough water for all individuals on board, considering the duration of the trip and any additional water needed for cooking or cleaning. Store the water in sealed, non-breakable containers and keep them in a cool, shaded area to prevent spoilage.

Non-Perishable Food

Bringing non-perishable food items on board ensures that sustenance is available in case of unexpected delays or emergencies. Consider foods that require minimal preparation and can be easily stored and consumed. Canned goods, granola bars, dried fruits, and nuts are all excellent options. Remember to check the expiration dates and replenish the food supply regularly.

Trash Bags

Keeping the boat clean and trash-free is essential for maintaining a safe and organized environment. Have an adequate supply of trash bags on board to collect and dispose of any waste generated during the trip.

Properly disposing of trash helps protect the marine environment and prevents debris from being blown overboard. Choose durable, leak-proof bags that are suitable for securing and containing garbage.

What Should I Always Have On My Boat?

Boat Documentation


Every boat must be registered with the appropriate authorities to operate on the water legally. It is crucial to keep the boat’s registration documents readily available on board for easy access during inspections or when requested by law enforcement. Ensure that the registration is valid and up to date and that all required stickers or decals are affixed to the boat as required by regulations.


Boat insurance provides financial protection in case of accidents, damage, theft, or liability claims. In case of an incident, it is essential to have a copy of the boat’s insurance policy and relevant contact information. Familiarize yourself with the insurance policy coverage, exclusions, and requirements to ensure proper compliance and adherence to any safety recommendations.

Operator’s License

Depending on the boat’s jurisdiction and size, operators may be required to have a valid operator’s license or certification to operate the vessel legally. Keeping the operator’s license or certification readily available is essential to demonstrate compliance with the applicable boating regulations. Ensure the license is current and valid for the maritime area where the boat will be operated.

Boat Manual

The boat or owner’s manual contains important information about the boat’s systems, operation, and maintenance. It is essential to have a copy of the boat manual on board to reference in case of equipment malfunctions or other technical issues. The manual provides valuable guidance on troubleshooting, maintenance procedures, and safety recommendations for the boat’s make and model.

Extra Miscellaneous Items

Boat Hook

A boat hook is a versatile tool that can be used for various purposes, such as grabbing lines, fending off other boats or objects, and retrieving items from the water. A boat hook on board can significantly assist in docking, mooring, and other boating maneuvers. It is essential to choose a boat hook that is sturdy, lightweight, and has a comfortable grip.

Dock Lines

Dock lines are essential for properly securing a boat to a dock, piling, or other fixed structures. They help prevent the boat from drifting away and provide stability while moored. It is essential to have adequate dock lines of appropriate length and strength for the boat’s size and intended docking locations. Regularly inspect dock lines for signs of wear and replace them as necessary.


Fenders, also known as bumpers, provide cushioning and protection for the boat’s hull when docking or mooring. They act as a barrier between the boat and the dock or other vessels, preventing scratches, damage, or collisions.

It is essential to have an appropriate size and quantity of fenders based on the boat’s length and the expected docking conditions. Regularly inspect fenders for leaks, wear, or deterioration and replace them when necessary.

Bailing Device

A bailing device, such as a manual bilge pump or a bucket, is crucial for removing water from the bilge or other areas of the boat. In case of leaks or inclement weather, a reliable bailing device is essential for maintaining the boat’s buoyancy and stability. Ensure that the bailing device is in good working condition, easily accessible, and suitable for the boat’s size and capacity.

Swimming Gear

Swimming gear, such as snorkeling equipment or inflatable floatation devices, can enhance boating recreational activities.

Whether exploring underwater wildlife or simply enjoying a swim in calm waters, having appropriate swimming gear on board can add to the boating experience. Choose swimming gear that meets safety standards, properly fits, and suits the desired water activities.

Having the right equipment and gear on board is crucial for boating safety and enjoyable experiences on the water. Each item serves a specific purpose and contributes to the overall preparedness and well-being of everyone on board.

Regularly inspect, maintain, and replenish the equipment to ensure it is in excellent working condition. Boating is a delightful adventure, and adequately preparing ensures a smooth and enjoyable journey.

What Should I Always Have On My Boat?

David Wright
Hi, I'm David Wright and I'm the author behind DockG, a web site dedicated to inflatable dock floating platforms. I'm passionate about providing the best possible information on these revolutionary floating docks, and I'm constantly striving to provide up-to-date, accurate and helpful tips and advice on the subject to anyone who visits the site. As an avid outdoorsman and water enthusiast, I'm constantly in search of the best ways to enjoy time spent on the water, and I'm confident that the content I provide on DockG will help anyone looking to get the most out of their inflatable dock floating platform.