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Safe at Sea: Safety checklist

By Staff | Jul 21, 2020

Too often, boat owners do “safety inspections” at the beginning of their boating season, and then they do not repeat those procedures until the beginning of the next season. That could prove to be a fateful, if not an expensive decision.

“Regularly” should mean monthly, perhaps more frequently depending on boat usage. Surely, if you are not using your boat often, you should complete these safety inspection steps every time you use your boat. Use this list to customize your own safety inspections for your boat, and keep a log of your maintenance work.

– Keep your bilge absolutely, 100 percent clean. Accumulations of dirt, dust, sawdust absorb oil and fuel droppings = fire hazard (not to mention clogging your bilge pump). So maintaining a clean bilge is a comparatively easy task. Do it.

– Check your lifesaving equipment. This column addresses this issue repeatedly. This is so simple, yet so important. If you are a regular boater, you should do this monthly, surely quarterly. If you discover a sub-par piece of lifesaving equipment, replace/repair immediately. An important habit to establish: If you discover faulty lifesaving equipment, remove it from your boat, lest you mistakenly pick it up during an emergency.

– Check your portable fire extinguisher monthly – at least. Shake chemical extinguishers. If your fire extinguisher system is installed, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding maintenance.

– Discharge your fire extinguisher annually. In fact, a great way to do this is in a fire drill with your regular crew members by taking the extinguisher away from the boat and, using a small contained fire (metal fire pit?), have everyone take his/her turn using the extinguisher. Remember to drill this into your crew members’ minds: PASS (Pull the pin, Aim to the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle to release the agent, Sweep across the base of the fire until it appears to be out).

– Check the engine and fuel system frequently for cleanliness and leaks. Repair immediately and do not start engine until these repairs are made.

– Maintain your boat’s bilge ventilation system in top operating condition.

– Once a year, have your electrical system checked professionally.

– If your boat is normally kept in the water, haul it out periodically for bottom hull cleaning. When it’s hauled out, make sure all through-hull fittings and their seacocks are in good condition and operating freely.

– Perform an annual inspection of the hull. Check for any cracks, especially in high-stress areas. Call in an expert if you find any suspicious areas.

I’ll end with another “rhyme” for the mariner to remember:

“When a halo rings the moon or the sun,

Rain will come upon the run!”

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and its boating education courses, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.