Boat Preventative Maintenance

Ensuring that a watercraft is in good working order is just as important as boating itself. In the past several years, 8% of reported accidents in the U.S. involved boats that had equipment/maintenance-related problems. In addition, 4% of reported boating fatalities were the result of such equipment or maintenance problems.

Many problems that boaters encounter, such as breakdowns, can be prevented by routine maintenance. Operators should check the boat and each of its key components (e.g., motor, electrical system, fuel system and through-hull findings) before launching.

The vessel's structural strength and watertight integrity should be adequate for its intended use, taking into account the maximum anticipated loads. Boat operators should ensure before each trip that the structural strength and watertight integrity of the vessel continue to be adequate for its intended use.

The boat, its engine and all equipment must be kept in good working order. Operating a boat that is known to be unseaworthy is against the law.

Boaters’ Pre-Departure Checklist

Boaters can reduce the chances of a breakdown or problem on the water if they ensure that the boat is mechanically-sound before taking it off shore. All vessel appliances and systems should be designed specifically for marine use and should be installed per manufacturer’s instructions. Boat operators can avoid potential danger by taking a few minutes to check the following:


Table 1.        Boaters’ Pre-Departure Checklist

Minimum Required Federal Equipment



State Registration (Certificate of Number)



State Numbering Display



Certificate of Documentation



Life Jackets: one for each person on board



Throwable Type IV Device



Visual Distress Signals



Fire Extinguisher (Fully Charged)



Proper Ventilation



Backfire Flame Control



Sound Producing Device



Navigation Lights



Oil Pollution Placard



Garbage Placard



Marine Sanitation Device



Copy of Navigation Rules (Inland Waters)



Any Additional State Requirements