Getting your boat ready for the summer is an exciting task, especially if you are a new boat owner. Many of us cannot wait to get out on the water this year. However, before you set sail, there are many things you must prepare first. To make this process as easy as possible, we have compiled a list of factors to consider before taking your boat out.
1. Make sure you have boat insurance
Although boat insurance is not a legal requirement in Canada, it is extremely important for you to insure your boat. A boat is a major investment, like a cottage or a car, and it is vital that you protect it. We recommend a policy that covers you for both liability and damages.
While many boat insurance coverages are similar to coverages for car insurance, there are a few specifically for boats. For example, fuel-spill liability is an add-on to boat insurance that protects you from clean-up claims or third-party damage caused by the accidental discharge of oil or fuel, if your boat were to leak or sink in a marina.
When searching for the right insurance policy for you, it’s important to discuss any special factors that may affect your policy with a broker. This can include things such as keeping your boat in hurricane zones, boats leaving Canadian waters, and boats traveling far from the shore.
2. Arrange storage for your boat
Another important factor to think about is where you will keep your boat when it’s not in use. Most people tend to store them at a marina, on their own cottage dock, or at their home.
If you choose to keep your boat at home, you’ll need to think about if you have enough space. Will you move a car out of the garage to make room for it? Can the boat be parked beside the house? It is also important to double check that there are no neighbourhood restrictions against this.
If you want to keep your boat at a marina, you’ll need to think about the additional costs that are associated with this type of storage. Winter storage costs can be quite expensive, but it saves you the trouble of having to find space on your property and you can have your boat serviced before you pick it up again in the spring.
3. Towing your boat
It’s easy to forget about towing if you’re a first-time boat owner. Towing your boat is necessary to move from one body of water to another, or from your home to a marina or dock. You need to ensure you have the right trailer in order to make sure your boat is safe during the travel process. (Note: You also need to ensure that your vehicle has a hitch and that it is strong enough to tow your boat – you may need to purchase a new car if your current one doesn’t have enough power!)
A good trailer will have all the right fittings to properly connect and secure your boat. It will have good tires and balance properly so there is not too much weight on the hitch. Even if you plan to keep the boat at a marina, you need the trailer to transport your vessel to other locations eventually. Don’t forget to take this expense into account when you’re purchasing your boat.
If you keep your boat at home during the winter, and have a long distance from your home to your marina, you may want to ensure you have roadside assistance. Most roadside assistance policies include coverage for things such as towing, jump starts, fuel delivery, vehicle lockout, and flat tires. Speak with a broker today to discuss more options regarding this add-on to your policy.
4. Make sure you have proper documentation
Being prepared as a boater starts with procuring and organizing all the necessary documentation for boat ownership. Documents you need include:
- Proof of ownership
- Insurance policy
- Boating licence
- Boat registration
- Inspection records
Once you have all of the necessary documentation complete, we recommend you store them in a waterproof bag, and keep them in a locked compartment on your boat, in case you are ever asked to present them while out on the water. It’s also important that you display any registration stickers and inspection.
5. Create a boat safety equipment checklist
Aside from following boating safety tips, it is also important to keep safety equipment on your boat. Keeping life jackets (also called personal flotation devices, or PFDs) on board is a legal requirement. However, there are also many other items you must have on your boat in order to comply with the law and regulations of boating, such as a bailing bucket, flashlight, whistle, oars (if motorized) and buoyant heaving line (rope). Each boat requires different equipment depending on the type and size of the boat. It’s important to note that many of these types of equipment are not included in with your boat at purchase, so they may be an additional investment.
In addition to the required safety equipment to keep on your boat, here are some additional safety items you should have on your boat:
- Fire extinguishers
- Fully stocked first aid kit
- Throwable rescue device (lifebuoy)
- Horn capable of producing a four-second blast
- Operational bilge pump (internal or external)
FAQs for First-time Boat Owners Checklist
What is a pre-departure checklist?
A pre-departure checklist is a very useful tool for all boaters, whether you’re new or experienced. The best way to prepare yourself before getting out on the water is by creating a checklist. This will help you to ensure that you have all bases covered and that you are ready for anything that may happen while you’re out on the water. This checklist can include:
- Checking the weather forecast
- Telling someone where you’re going
- Required safety equipment (as mentioned above)
- Water, food if needed
- Extra fuel
Should I have a set of tools on board my boat?
There are many different types of tools that may come in handy while you’re out on your boat. Just like any other type of vehicle, you may experience a breakdown or mechanical issue. This is why it’s important to keep tools on hand such as a screwdriver, pliers, booster cables, jump starter, solar panels or other tools that you may keep in your toolbox. It could be helpful for you to take a boat maintenance course so that you know how to use the tools properly in the event they are needed.
What should I consider before going out on the water?
There are many considerations that you must think about before going out on open water. Some of the most important ones include having enough food and water for the duration of your trip; weather conditions – check the forecast; whether you have working lines of communication in case of emergency, and that your boat has an adequate amount of fuel for your trip. It’s also a good idea to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return so they can raise the alarm if you’re not back when expected.