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Course Outline

Before each trip, review a pre-departure checklist to make sure you have everything you need for a safe trip.


  • Check the weather forecast for the area and timeframe during which you will be boating.

Boat Condition

  • Check the hull for cracks or other damage.
  • Make sure the steering and throttle controls are operating properly.
  • Check the electrical system and that all lights are working properly.
  • Check for any fuel leaks from the tank, fuel lines, and carburetor.
  • Check the propulsion and cooling systems.
  • Check the oil level, and inspect the engine compartment for oil leaks.
  • Change the oil filter, water filter, and spark plugs, if needed.
  • Check hose connections for leaks or cracks, and make sure hose clamps are tight.
  • Drain all water from the engine compartment, and be sure the drainage plug is replaced and secure.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel or know where you can refuel. Remember that you want ⅓ to go out, ⅓ to return, and ⅓ in reserve.
  • Check to be sure you have a fully charged engine battery and fire extinguishers.


  • Make sure that you have the required number of lifejackets or PFDs, that they are in good condition, and that they are the proper sizes for the persons on board. Encourage everyone to wear a lifejacket or PFD.
  • Check that all required safety equipment is on board, is in good working order, and is easy to reach.
  • Make sure you have a first-aid kit, basic tools, and spare parts, including plugs for all through-hull fittings.
  • Make sure you have official nautical charts and related publications.
  • If so equipped, make sure the engine shut-off line is in good order.
Boater checking boat before launching

General Preparations

  • Make sure the weight of persons and gear is evenly distributed and balanced, keeping most of the weight low.
  • Make sure all boat operators have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card or other proof of competency on board.
  • Check your charts to be sure you know the locations of local hazards and the expected water levels and tides.
  • Leave a float plan with a reliable friend or relative. Make sure that person knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Run the blowers for at least four minutes before starting the engine. Check for airflow.
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