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Boating Safety Items Checklist

Boating Safety Items Checklist

Basic safety items, gear, and equipment is a must, regardless of the size of your boat. From life jackets to items that offer assistance in rescue efforts or fire prevention, these safety items should always be on board your vessel (or on you). 

While there is a bare minimum of required safety gear to have onboard your boat, there are also some highly recommended items that you’ll be glad you remembered to bring. Don’t get caught up in an emergency without having any of these safety items on-hand. 

Life Jackets (PFDs)

Life Jackets (PFDs) 

Life jackets, also known as personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required to be on all boats within U.S. waters, and all boats over 16 feet are required to have a throwable flotation device  

Regardless of the size of the boat, the number of people on board, or your destination, it’s always a good idea to wear a life jacket and have extra PFDs onboard. Life jackets are a key part of responsible boating and marine safety when you are out on the water.  

According to the United States Coast (USCG) Guard’s 2018 annual report of recreational boating accident statistics, where the cause of death was known, 77% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 84% were not wearing a life jacket.  

The PDF you wear depends on the size of your boat, size and age of the user, and activity that is being performed. 

  • Type I PDFs are considered offshore life jackets. 
  • Type II refers to nearshore life vests. 
  • Type III are flotation aids (most commonly worn). 
  • Type IV are throwable devices (such as a ring). 
  • Type V are special-use devices (inflatable). 

There are a variety of different types and categories of life jackets, ranging from wearable to throwable. According to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), there should be an allotted Type I, II, III, or V PDF or life vest for each passenger on board. Type V inflatable life vests can be worn by individuals over the age of 16 and must be worn on board at all times in order to be considered a PDF.  

Life vests should be in good condition, accessible, USCG approved, and fit the individual they are intended for. 

Each U.S. state has its own regulations for children’s life jackets. If the vessel is 16 feet or longer (except for kayaks and canoes), it must also carry an additional throwable flotation device (Type IV) onboard, such as a ring. 

If you need a life jacket for your boat, check out our great selection of personal flotation devices and watersport life vests in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles. 

Fire Extinguisher

Fire Extinguisher 

While it’s always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy, there are also minimum USCG fire extinguisher requirements for vessels that have enclosed living spaces, enclosed engine compartments, permanent fuel tanks, or have any flammable and highly combustible materials. 

 Here are the required extinguisher types for each vessel size: 

  • Marine vessels less than 26’: one B-I type hand portable fire extinguisher 
  • Marine vessels 26’ to 40’: two B-I or one B-II 
  • Marine vessels 40’ to 65’: three B-I or one B-II and one B-I 
  • Marine vessels over 65”: 1-8 (depending on the weight of the vessel) B-II, plus a fixed system in the machinery space 

Fire extinguishers must be mounted in their brackets, be in good physical condition with no rust or dents, have operating gauges (if any), and have seals and tamper indicators in place.  

It’s a good idea to test out your fire extinguisher or even practice using it before you are faced with an emergency fire situation. There are plenty of fire safety courses and instructional videos online that can help you gain familiarity with using a fire extinguisher. 

First Aid Supplies

First Aid Supplies 

A good first aid kit should be present in every area you regularly spend time, including your boat. Get an all-encompassing boating first aid kit to help patch up all kinds of injuries–from light scrapes to serious wounds. These kits are preassembled with waterproof supplies and medical equipment to cover any time on onboard injury or accident. 

Whether a younger boater cuts their finger, someone onboards gets motion sickness, or there is a true emergency, you’ll be glad to have a kit to help you handle the worst of it. 

If you like to assemble your own supplies, you can put together a few medical aid items such as bandages, gauze, tape, and other things to create your own customized kit. Otherwise, purchase one of the many boating first aid kits that are fully stocked for any possible injury out on the water. 



One of the most easily forgotten safety items isn’t directly for your boat, but for yourself and others on board. Prevent a serious, harmful sunburn or even sunstroke by applying sunscreen before you venture out on your boat. Re-apply sunscreen after you swear or get in the water to ensure skin coverage from harmful sun damage and potential skin cancers. If it’s particularly sunny or hot outside, you may also want to consider outfitting your boat with some kind of boat awning to stay shaded. 

There are many kinds of sunscreen and sun protectants available, but to get the most protection and prevent damage to organisms in the water you may swim or rinse off in, we suggest purchasing a reef-safe sunscreen.  

As far as sunscreen rating goes, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests applying sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30 since it blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. If you are more fair-skinned or plan to be out on the water for a long time, you may want to apply a slightly higher SPF sunscreen. 

Drinking Water

Drinking Water 

Like applying sunscreen or having a first aid kit handy, many people don’t realize how important staying hydrated is while out on the water. Bring a cooler full of water bottles, or a gallon of water to drink in order to prevent dehydration, fainting, and keep yourself and others cool. 

However much water you may think you need, bring twice that amount. The standard for drinking water per person is about one gallon per day. 

We offer a variety of coolers and water containers to store your drinks and keep items and snacks cool on those hot days. Make sure to keep any trash or empty plastic bottles in the cooler and dispose of them once you are back on land. 



In addition to enhancing visibility, having a flashlight handy 

It is a good idea to have a flashlight or other means of seeing in the dark or in dark spaces onboard your boat. There are so many different types of flashlights, torches, and even glow lights to help brighten your boat in the dark so that your eyes can see further. 

A pocket flashlight makes it easy to see small, dark spaces or illuminate small workspaces. A larger flashlight or beam can provide a useful visual aid when looking outside and around your boat as well. 

Backfire Flame Arrestor 

Prevent an emergency before it occurs with proper safety equipment for your boat. 

A boat backfires flame arrestor is a device used to stop flames, which can result from an engine backfiring or from flames encountering fuel and starting a fire onboard your boat. Motorboats and motor vessels, apart from outboard motors, must be equipped with an acceptable means of backfire flame control.  

  • Marine vessels must have one USCG approved or AE-J-1928 or UL 1111 standard compliant backfire flame arrestor for each carburetor on all gas-powered vessels.  
  • The backfire flame arrestor must be secured to the air intake with a flame-tight connection. 
  • Other acceptable forms of backfire flame control include air and fuel induction systems (usually found on personal watercraft), velocity stacks (attachments to carburetors), and reed-type (found in outboard motors). 
Visual Distress Signal

Visual Distress Signal 

All Recreational boats over 16 feet must be equipped with USCG approved visual distress signals (VSD), in order to signal to other boats, lighthouses, or emergency services. 

Visual distress signals, as the name suggests, help other boats and emergency rescuers locate your boat so they know that you are in distress and can provide aid. 

Exceptions: The exception to the USCG VSD requirement is boats operating on lakes (apart from the Great Lakes), sailboats under 26 feet without propulsion machinery, manually propelled boats, and boats participating in organized events.  

These boats must carry a minimum of 3 approved night signals when operating from sunset to sunrise, and if pyrotechnic devices are selected, a minimum of three signals are required for day use and three signals for night use, although some signals (such as combination flares) can be used for both day and night. 

Sound Producing Device

Sound Producing Device 

One of the most important aspects of boating safety is the ability to let other boaters and vessels know what actions you are taking, such as crossing, overtaking, or meeting. In these situations, no human-made sound can sufficiently relay a message quickly to other boats, making it necessary to use sound-producing devices such as bells, whistles, hailer hornsand horns, or even air-horns, in a pinch. 

There are set requirements for sound-producing devices, depending on the size of your boat: 

  • All boats under 40’ should have a reliable sound-producing device such as a horn or whistle 
  • Boats over 40’ are also required to carry a bell  
  • Boats over 65.5’ must carry a bell and whistle, with an air horn or electric horn counting as a whistle. The mouth of the bell must be at least 7.87” in diameter and the whistle should hear from at least ½ a nautical mile 
Extra Raft or Boat

Extra Raft or Boat 

A small life raft, inflatable kayak, or even a backup canoe can be immensely helpful to have onboard your main vessel. Whether there is a malfunction with your boat and you need to evacuate, or you are operating a larger boat that needs a contingency plan for passengers, an emergency life raft or two can ensure that everyone has a place to go if they need to evacuate the boat in a hurry. 

There are many different types of life rants, but even the most basic inflatable boats can offer some reassurance and peace of mind, while others can fit a boat full of people and get them safely to sure. 

Communication Device

Communication Device 

Although most boats are required to have visual distress signals (VDS) and sound-producing devices (SPD), having a communication or location device such as an EPIRB,  small radio, or your mobile phone onboard can also be a great help in case of emergency or inconvenience.  

Both of these devices act as a way for you to easily contact others and for others to contact or locate you in case of emergency, bad weather, forgetting an important item, or any other safety-related concerns. 

Get Everything for Your Boat

Get Everything for Your Boat 

Shop the best quality boat safety accessories at the lowest prices online at Atlantic Marine Depot. Ensure that you have all the safety equipment and supplies you need before your boat hits the water. Get fast, free shipping on all orders over $99. Get marine electronics & boat accessories at the lowest prices. Shop our online inventory for the best marine & boat safety equipment for commercial boats, pleasure vessels, and fishing boats. 

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20 Must-Have Boat Accessories

Summer is right around the corner and now is the perfect time to stock up on accessories for your boat. When you’re ready to take your boat out on the water, make sure you’re stocked up on these must-have accessories. These also make great gifts for family, friends, and loved ones. 

Fun and practical boat accessories that cost less than you might think. Check out these 20-must have boat accessories, perfect for gifts or your next trip out on the water 

Dry Bag or Box 

Keep all your valuables, non-waterproof electronics, and anything else important from getting waterlogged. Thereof a ton of options for dry boxes and bags, but for a basic dry box that gets the job done, try this Attwood Boater’s Dry Box or this DryCASE Waterproof dry bag.  

For those unexpected rainy days or when the spray gets everywhere, you’ll be glad you have a dry box and your items aren’t soaked. Check out our full selection of waterproof bags and cases


When people find out you have a boat, their minds tend to go to fun on the water. Treat friends and family to some fun with a variety of towables. With air pump and tow rope–for a fun day out on the lake, variety of different floats and tubes, just stay safe and make sure everything is tied and hitched correctly. Whether you’re carting everyone around or just allowing single riders, you’re sure to have a great time. 

Life Vests 

A no-brainer for getting out on the water. These days life vests come in so many different, sizes, shapes, and styles. Get a cheap pack of them to keep on your boat, or find the perfect life vest fit for you and your family while you’re all out on the water having fun. From infants to experienced boaters, there should be a fitting life vest onboard for everyone to use. 

Boat Fenders 

This item is probably one of the most important on the list, and if you don’t already have boat fenders, you should get them. Fenders prevent scratches and scrapes on your boat hull when docking and can save you thousands if your boats even gets a little too close to a dock post. Most boat fenders do the same thing, so as long as it fits well, your boat will be protected. Check out some of our basic boat fenders and keep your boat safe. Don’t forget those fender lines, either! 

Boat Towing Membership 

It may not be a physical accessory, but whether you’re on a local lake or along the cost you can get a boat towing membership to ensure you have a backup if things don’t go to plan. It’s better to be a member with a local towing business than to pay an arm and a leg on the off chance that you need a tow and haven’t invested in a membership. 

Sea-Tow and TowBoatUS are the most popular services, and they typically reimburse for towing when their services aren’t available near your boat. An annual membership usually costs anywhere from $149-$179, while the one-time cost of on-water towing can be anywhere from $250-$500/hour. In fact, according to BoatUS, the cost of an on-water tow back to port by a commercial provider average about $700 per incident. 

Fishing Rod Holder 

Boating and fishing are almost synonymous in some places, and if you love to fish you know the importance of a good rod holder–unless you plan to hold your fishing rod all day or give up on catching anything. There are plenty of fishing rod holders on the market, but invest in a quality one to ensure you don’t lose your pole. Make life easier for yourself on the water with a mounted rod holder

First Aid/Safety Kit 

Keep standard first aid items onboard like sunscreen, bug spray, bandages, antibiotics, antiseptics, and sterile tools in case of a medical emergency…or a bug bite or scratch. With all the different ways to accidentally cut a finger or sustain more serious injuries, it’s smart to have a well-stocked safety kit on your boat at all times. You never know when you’ll need it and you’ll be grateful to have it when you do use it. 

Tool/Resource Kit 

While you can purchase these sort of tool kits, it helps to add your own items to them to stay functional. Keep more useful things like a basic tool kit, towels, spare shirt and shorts, additional boat flares or a flare gun, an air horn and whistle, tape, knife, zip ties, a flashlight, and more all in an easy to locate kit or toolbox. Most of these items are extremely useful and you’ll be glad they’re in one location for easy access. 

Emergency Paddles 

Having extra paddles is a good idea, especially for smaller boats. These telescoping paddles are a great choice and even come with a nylon carrying case. For paddles that are a bit longer, try these 25”-75” telescoping paddles with a boat hook handle. 

Boat Fire Extinguisher  

if you don’t already have one or your boat didn’t come with one, you need a boat fire extinguisher. From putting out the grill when someone is too enthusiastic to stopping dangerous boat fires, extinguishers should be on board your boat at all times. 

Jump Starter Pack For Boats 

You never know when your battery might die on you, and it’s better to be prepared in case of an emergency. These little jump starter kits are powerful enough to give your battery a boost so you can get back to land and purchase a new one. They are specially calibrated for boats, so you don’t have to string along any car jump starters. 

Solar Panel  

Choose a larger solar panel for keeping your boat battery charged or smaller ones for your phone and other small electronics. Solar panels are much more efficient and affordable than they used to be. Leaving a solar charger out on the deck is an easy way to power all your devices. Solar chargers come in lots of different sizes, from charging a phone to charging a boat battery, so shop around to see which panels are the best fit for your needs. 

12v Charger 

Charge phones, keep 12v air pumps going, and power anything else you might have onboard. There are plenty of 12v charger options, from large lithium battery backs that take solar panel energy to specially created boat battery chargers. Make sure you have enough power at all times for all your electronics and get the right 12v charger. 

Boating Anchor System 

There are tons of boat anchoring system options out there, and the one you select will depend on your boat size. From a small weekend boat that provides an hour or two of fun to a sailing vessel that can stay out on the water indefinitely, an anchor is a must-have. Check out our boat anchor systems to see which is a best-fit for your boat. 

Marine GPS 

Be sure to have a GPS handy for when your phone dies or can’t get a signal. Most people on small lakes are just fine with using their phones, but for larger lakes and the ocean, a GPS is a must-have. Many marine GPS devices also come with multiple functionalities such as fish finders, AIS, chartplotters, and other neat abilities. For a great GPS gift, check out these Garmin Quatix marine smart watches with GPS in blue and stainless steel.  

Boat Grill 

If you spend whole days out on the water, then a boat grill is a must-have accessory, and most can be had for the same amount or less than a regular grill. Most boat grills are mounted to the side or railing of your boat and provide an easy way to grill up food for everyone. Once you have purchased a grill, you can get a boat grill mount to attach it to the railing of your boat.  

Keep everyone fed and happy with a great boat grill for those weekends out on the water. From skewers to hotdogs and burgers, you can guarantee everyone onboard will be glad you chose this addition. 


A cooler for your boat is a no-brainer. Keep your drinks, snack, and everything else cold on those hot days out on the water or store freshly caught fish for later. Since the sun can really dehydrate you after hours outside, make sure to bring plenty of bottled water, drinks, ice, and your favorite foods to hydrate and keep your energy up. 

Magnetic Compass 

A compass is great backup tool for navigation, or an excellent and thoughtful gift for the boater in your life. There are tons of different compass options, but for under $100 we like this Richie Angler Compass with a 5-year warranty. Check out of full selection of magnetic and electronic compasses and see which one strikes your eye the most. If you’re looking for an easy to remember, on the go compass, try this simple Timex watch with integrated mini compass. 

A compass is great backup tool for navigation, or an excellent and thoughtful gift for the boater in your life. There are tons of different compass options, but for under $100 we like this Richie Angler Compass with a 5-year warranty. Check out of full selection of magnetic and electronic compasses and see which one strikes your eye the most. If you’re looking for an easy to remember, on the go compass, try this simple Timex watch with integrated mini compass. 

Cooling Towel 

Stay cool and safe on those beautiful, hot, and sunny days. Cooling towels usually use cooling gel or special fabric material to keep water cool against your skin. If you need a recommendation, try this Klein Tools Cooling Towel in gray and blue. You’ll be glad you brought it when the sun is glaring down on you. 

VHF Radio 

Ensure you have a way to call for help if nobody is around and incorporate many functions in one great device. We like this Standard Horizon Matrix Fixed Mount VHF Radio with AIS & GPS, and since there are so many different radios out there to choose from, you’re bound to find one you love.