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What to Know Before You Go Boating

The key to a relaxing, fun-filled day on the water lies in comprehensive preparation. Before you pull away from the dock, take these three steps to assure you, your family, and your boat are well prepared. When you know you’re thoroughly prepared, you can rest easy on the water.

Make a Checklist

There’s a lot to keep track of when it comes to prepping for a boat trip. Even if you’ve got a routine, it never hurts to have a list of items on board, equipment to be checked and tasks that need to be completed before you set out. Think of it as a satisfying way to measure your boat-prep accomplishments; each item checked off is another feather in your captain’s hat.

And if you’re new to boating, and/or you have a lot of distractions during your prep time (kids, pets and guests all need attention, too), then a checklist is an invaluable way to keep track of what needs to be done.

TOP TIP: The U.S. Coast Guard will provide a free vessel check to assess your craft’s safety. Visit their website to sign up.

Weather You Go, or No

Weather on the water affects everything. Not only do you want to make sure the day’s forecast will allow for safe navigation, but you want to make sure you and your fellow passengers are prepared for the proper conditions. After all, there’s virtually nowhere to hide once you set out, so you’ll want to know beforehand whether it’s going to be warm or cool, and to have the right clothing and equipment for sun, wind, or rain.

And of course, if the forecast calls for dangerous conditions, don’t go out. Boating in bad weather is not smart and no fun.

TOP TIP: Visit the NOAA’s National Weather Service page for the Tampa Bay area for a complete list of forecast and weather-related services.

Plan Ahead (and Tell a Friend)

Before every boating trip, you should complete a “float plan” and leave it with someone you trust—a friend, family member, or someone at your marina. A float plan comprises valuable information, about your vessel and your plans for the trip. Should you have any trouble on the water, the person with the float plan can contact authorities and provide them the information to find you quickly and get you the help you need.

TOP TIP: Download the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s float plan form here.

For more information on boating safety, tips and regulations in southwest Florida, visit