Nobody likes getting a ticket when driving down the road, well it is even less fun getting one when you are out on the boat with your buddies. If you do get pulled over on a lake or river, you'll want to be sure there are certain items aboard your vessel for when the park rangers go through their checklist. The United States Coast Guard gave us a list of Vessel Requirements, those items are as follows:
1. Vessel Registration Number on either side of the bow of the boat. Those letters must be at least 3 inches tall, along with your state's tax sticker next to it. You'll also need to be sure to carry your Paper Registration on board at all times while operating the vessel. A few tips for that piece of paper-either laminate it and keep it in a compartment, or get one of those handy dandy keychains that the top pulls off and you can keep it inside so it won't get wet.
2. Personal Flotation Device for each person aboard the vessel. Have enough life jackets for everyone, and if you have children riding as well, you'll need life jackets to suit their sizes/weights. Keep the life jackets in an easily accessable spot.
3. Throwable. Every boat is required to have a Throwable Flotation device on board, whether its a ring shape, cushion shape, or horse shoe shape.
4. Fire Extinguisher. Be sure to check expiration dates on these if they have been on board a while. It needs to be functioning.
5. Visual Distress Signal such as Red Flares, Orange Flares or Parachute Flares. Also an Orange Flag. You need to have a "daytime" signal and a "night time" signal.
6. Sound Signal like a bell, whistle, or air horn. This must be able to be heard from a 1/2 nautical mile away.
7. If the Vessel is larger than 16 feet long, you need red/green navigation(nav.) lights on the front of the boat. Also a light that sits high enough off of the boat so other boats can see you from behind. These lights must be illuminated between sun down and sun up.
8. At least 1 Oar, preferably 2. Some say this is not a requirement, however we have been asked to show ours in the past.
Those are the Vessel Requirements, the rest of these are not Requirements per say, But just a good idea to always have with you, you never know what could happen on open water.
9. Anchor and plenty of line attached.
10. Bucket to bail water.
11. First Aid Kit.
12. VHF Radio.
13. Extra Water and Fuel. I'd like to think the extra fuel is subjective, its always nice to have a reliable gas gauge. Water however is a must, always have plenty of water aboard. If you're going to a small lake, you may not need as much, but its always good to expect the unexpected when you go out.
14. A Tool Kit. (We've used ours more than we'd like to mention.)
15. Ample Sun Protection. This stuff seams to go fast when you're out with other boaters.
16. A Big Flashlight. If you get stuck on the water after dark a flashlight is very handy, but a huge flashlight is even better!
If you invest in most or all of these items, there should be very few situations you can't get out of. As with other activities safety should always come first. Even though you made sure to have all of these items on your boat last year, it is always a great idea, before going out every year, or even a few times during the season, to make sure all of your equipment is in great working order, and nothing is damaged, broken or un-useable. It's much easier to relax and have a good time, knowing you are prepared for the worst......and the best!