The following is a list to prepare your boat to head offshore. Even if traveling in the Intracoastal Water Way your boat needs to be prepared for rough weather, groundings, and mechanical breakdowns.


Here is a list of items that I recommend checking and doing before getting underway. This list can be used for power or sail. I am sure there are items I have left out. If you think of other things to add, send me an email. Before I have left on a voyage on my boat or a client’s boat I have always performed a full day or two inspection of the boat. It never hurts to hire a professional, such as a marine surveyor, mechanic, and rigger to assist you in ensuring your boat is safe.

All Boats:

  • Have the boat surveyed or inspected if you are not comfortable doing yourself.
  • When was the last time you hauled out? Do you need to paint the bottom?
  • Rudder bearings and seals need to be inspected.
  • Steering cables & pulleys need to be inspected and greased. If a hydraulic system: fill system, bleed and inspect for leaks.
  • Anodes “Zincs” need to be checked.
  • Thu-hull fittings: inspect. Do valves turn freely. Is the valve ball turning along with the handle?
  • Inspect all hoses and hose clamps.
  • Engine shaft, propellor, and stuffing box need to be inspected.
  • Batteries: inspect, are they holding a charge, are they secured?
  • Ship’s compass should be checked and adjusted for deviation.
  • Have the engines serviced.
  • Have generator serviced.
  • Polish the fuel.
  • Ensure you have plenty of spares for your engines.
  • Lifelines: inspect for corrosion. Inspect fittings for cracks.
  • Ground Tackle: inspect your anchoring system. Is your anchor large enough and do you have enough anchors? Practice your anchoring before leaving. Secure all anchors before heading offshore.
  • Inspect dock-lines and fenders.
  • Electronics: ensure all are working and know how to use them.
  • Tools: ensure you have what you will need.
Sailboats:
  • Go aloft, or hire a rigger to inspect the rig. Use a Scotch Brite pad to clean fittings and a magnifying glass to inspect all fittings.
  • Inspect the chainplates, above and below deck for corrosion, cracks and water intrusion.
  • All Sails: stitching, reef points should be checked by a sail maker.
  • All running rigging, blocks and  inspected and replaced if necessary. Winches should be serviced.
  • Have a heavy weather plan and practice it before leaving.
  • Carry: spare blocks, line, cotter pins, and seizing wire.
Safety Items to have Aboard:
  • VHF radio, fixed and handheld. Have a handheld VHF in your ditch bag and ensure the battery is charged.
  • Satellite Phone.
  • Barometer.
  • A messenger such as SPOT.
  • AIS: ensure if you have one it is registered.
  • EPIRB: ensure the registration and  battery are up to date.
  • Handheld spotlight.
  • Handheld compass.
  • Binoculars.
  • Life jackets & safety harnesses for all crew members.
  • Inspect jacklines.
  • Whistles for the crew.
  • Strobe-lights for the crew.
  • Man over board pole with flag and life ring or horse shoe with at least  60′ of line.
  • Approved fire extinguishers in working order and securely mounted.
  • Assorted flares as required by USCG. Remember this is a minimum. Have more on the boat and in your ditch bag.
  • Marker dye.
  • Hand Held Horn.
  • Signal mirror.
  • Ensure all running lights, spreader lights, navigation lights and masthead strobe are working.
  • Assorted flashlights with spare batteries.
  • Knife.
  • Soft wood plugs readily available.
  • Drinking water.
  • Ensure all pumps are operating. Have a manual bilge pump.
  • Life Raft: ensure it is inspected.
  • Dinghy, with oars.
  • Heaving line.
  • Boarding ladder.
  • First Aid Kit.