The Complete Boat Launch Checklist, from Paperwork to Equipment
Are you completely ready for a fun day on the water? Or do you have that nagging feeling that you've left something behind? Check your list first! Without a pre-launch checklist, you might forget something important. After all, who wants a forgotten item, or a neglected mistake, to ruin your boat outing? Be prepared and that won't happen. On the water, even something simple can turn into a tragedy. As my dad always said, You can never be too careful or too prepared.There's just no such thing as being too prepared, right? So, whether you're towing your boat to the water or you're lucky enough to live right there, these checkpoints will jog your memory, even on your busiest days. With this simple pre-launch boat checklist, you won't miss something important. If you go down the list, you can prepare for all those fun get-togethers on the water. With no regrets or worries. Let's get started.
The Complete Boat Launch Checklist
1. Check the PaperworkCould you be breaking the law when you're towing or out on the water? You might be if you don't have the proper paperwork. Check the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website to see what your state requires. You need to have the following for your trailer and your boat:
- Proper/valid title work
- Valid registration(s)
- Paid mandatory fees
- Paid mandatory taxes
- Valid driver's license
- Your boat owner's manual
- Your trailer owner's manual
- Safe, waterproof container for all paperwork to avoid damage
2. Check the Emergency KitBefore leaving, be sure you have an emergency tool kit and first aid kit. From here on out in this post, you can click on the items on the list to find them on Amazon (when available). Some items needed:
- Screwdriver, wrench, hammer (basic tool kit)
- Fire extinguisher (check expiration date and workability)
- Medical supplies (basic first aid kit)
- Life vests for each person on board; check weight limits for each one
- Extra floating pillows and life rings
- Emergency ladder
- Inflatable boat for emergencies
- Tire inflator/pump/compressor
- Emergency dried food items
3. Check the Loose Boat ItemsDon't laugh at me. I've lost many nice items that flew out of our boat because they weren't secure. (I was sick when my young twins' matching outfits flew out! No, we never found them.) So, learn from my experience and secure your items. Here's a list of some items you need to be sure are secured:
- Boat cover (securely tightened or removed, folded, and stored)
- Coolers, grills, chairs, dog bowls and beds, food, drinks
- Umbrellas, awnings, canopies
- Floating pillows, throw cushions, life rings, life vests
- Recreational items (skis, inner tubes, etc.)
4. Check the TrailerNothing like a flat tire to ruin your day, right? Avoiding that scenario is easier with a little pre-planning. With a visual check, and the Penny Test, your tires should be good to go. Check these first:
- Visually check for any blemishes, bumps, slits or holes.
- Perform the Penny Test. Using a penny, you can check tread depth.
- Check inflation/pressure. Tires shouldn't be over inflated or under inflate, so check your owner's manual for the recommend pressure.
- Check your spare tire. Don't forget, as you never know when you'll need it!
5. Check the Boat
LightingYou can't forget the lights. And certain lights are required by law, especially after sundown. Check your state laws to be sure. Then check your lights:
- All round light
- Stern light
RopeDo you have all the ropes you need?Â Look to make sure:
- Towing rope(s)
- Anchor rope(s)
- Docking rope(s)
The HullThe hull is hugely important. If you don't know much about your hull, read this first. Then you'll understand why it's important to check it. Here's what you need to check for:
- Possible cracks
- Possible holes or gauges
- Any blemish/knots/bulges that may be concerning
ElectricalAre your electrical systems safe for a day on the water? Your owner's manual is a good guide for this. It can tell you what to look for and how to check each item. If you're still not sure, check the internet for specific instructions on your boat model and year. Make sure to check these:
- Battery (wouldn't hurt to have an extra one!)
- Look for any corrosion
- Check starters
- Check your boat engine
- If your boat's already in the water, crank it to see if it's running properly before launching.
- If it's on dry land, you can do a flush test. Here's a tutorial in case you're not sure how to do it.
- Ensure that windshields and windows are closed and/or locked
- Secure any movable seats
- Support/prop engine to prevent jarring
- Secure/fold in mirrors
- Check/secure coupler
- Raise/check trailer tongue
- Check lug nuts for tightness and lubrication
- Check all latches and hooks
- Check chains and cables
FluidsThis list applies to your boat, trailer and towing vehicle.
- Steering fluid
- Hydraulic fluids
- Brake fluid
- Water levels