Pre-Season Boat Safety Check

When the weather clears and the fish start biting you want your boat to be ready to get on the water, with all systems and safety gear ready to go. Life jackets, signaling devices and fire extinguishers should be well maintained and in top shape. Take the time check everthing now, so everything will be ready for the upcoming season. Here’s the crucial safety gear and systems that need attention:

battery connections
Check for tight battery connections Dave Lear

1. Batteries

Lead acid batteries that aren’t sealed should be checked for the correct fluid levels. Sealed batteries let you skip that step. Replace any wing nuts with lug nuts and tighten all snuggly. Sparks aboard a boat are never a welcome occurrence. Put the batteries on a slow trickle charge so they are full of juice.

fuel filters
Clean and replace fuel filters regularly Dave Lear

2. Fuel Filters

Replace if due or inspect for corrosion, rust and water in fuel. Leaking gas aboard a boat is never a good thing, either.

pump testing
Test all pumps for proper functioning Dave Lear

3. Bilge Pumps and Through-Hulls

Check the bilge pumps for debris and proper operation. Inspect all through-hulls for water-tight integrity and ensure valves can be easily opened and closed.

fire extinguisher
Keep fire extinguishers are fully charged Dave Lear

4. Fire Extinguisher

Check fire extinguishers to see if they are still within acceptable range on the charge. The safety pins should be firmly attached.

audible and visual signaling devices
Determine that audible and visual signaling devices are in working condition Dave Lear

5. Signaling Devices

Verify that flares have not expired. Those out of date can be kept for backup emergencies, but put them in a sealed bag and store them separately from the good ones. Check horns, flare guns and other signaling devices. Avoid tickets from law enforcement and be prepared in case these life-savers are needed.

life jackets
Maintain life jackets in top condition Dave Lear

6. Life Jackets

Check that you have enough life jackets for all aboard and don’t scrimp on cost. If you go in the water, you’ll want the best money can buy. Check for rips and dry rot and secure straps. On automatic inflatables, check the CO2 cartridges for integrity/expiration.


If you carry one of these devices, check for battery life and any possible updates or recalls. Make sure they are securely mounted and easily accessible.

ditch bag
Keep essential emergency items maintained and ready in a ditch bag. Dave Lear

8. Ditch Bag

A ditch bag can be another life-saver. Stock one with a waterproof VHF radio, day and night signaling devices, a short section of nylon rope, first aid basics, a survival knife and some water and high-protein snacks.


9. First Aid Kit

Make sure the essentials are included and haven’t expired or gotten damp or mildewed.

Make sure you have supplies for a quick on-the-water repair Dave Lear

10. Emergency Repair Kit

Keep a few repair items in a waterproof container. Zip ties, hose clamps, electrical tape and electrical connectors may come in handy for a quick fix if something fails.

11. Boat Documentation

Keep the boat paperwork all together in a sealed container. Registration, proof of insurance, fishing licenses and towing service information are all necessary items.