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What to Bring on a Boat

Updated: March 2021

When planning your provisions for your next maritime adventure, keep in mind that food and drink aren't the only essentials you'll need to bring with you – particularly if you plan to be on the water for a while. Here are a few things that should go on your packing list.

View of water and sky from boat deck.

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Marine First Aid Kit

Basic medical incidents, from sunburns to seasickness, are bound to happen when you spend enough time on your boat. The U.S. Coast Guard advises that you keep a fully provisioned first aid kit on board, and that you make sure everything in your kit is up-to-date at the beginning of each season.

They recommend that you stock your kit with over-the-counter medications like:

  • Pain relievers and fever reducers
  • Stomach remedies for motion sickness
  • Creams to treat insect bites and sunburns
  • Antiseptic and antibiotic ointments

They also suggest that you carry a mix of bandages, including:

  • Adhesives in various sizes
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Roller bandages
  • Narrow adhesive strips

It's also essential to have emergency phone numbers such as poison control, your doctor and your emergency contacts on board.

Handheld VHF Radio

VHF (very high frequency) radios are available in a handheld form, similar to a walkie-talkie. They can act as a direct link to help in case of emergency, the U.S. Coast Guard says. VHF radios have a much longer range than a cell phone, so if you're far from the nearest cell tower, they can put you in touch with rescuers, if needed.

Some vessels may already have a mounted VHF radio, but having a portable backup can be a lifesaver if the boat's battery, which is the mounted radio's powers source, dies. Portable VHFs are also essential in any boat's emergency kit in case of evacuation.

Safety Essentials

Federal regulations require that all vessels have one personal flotation device for each person on board. The U.S. Coast Guard also suggests that you ensure your boat is outfitted with up-to-date flares, fire extinguishers and plenty of batteries for devices like flashlights.

Consider adding an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) to your list as well, just in case you need help in an emergency. Not only will it transmit a distress call with your position to authorities when you activate it, it'll automatically activate if submerged in water. The U.S. Coast Guard requires that EPIRBs are registered routinely with the government so rescuers can immediately begin gathering information about your vessel's location, number of passengers and route. If you already have an EPIRB, ensure your registration is current.

Clothing

When packing your clothes, choose quick-drying, breathable fabrics. Cotton can take a long time to dry and may not dry completely in humid climates, so opt for breathable or moisture-wicking synthetic fabrics instead. Keep in mind that even if it's hot during the day, breezes off the water can cool down evenings, so you should also have a sweatshirt in your bag, advises CruisingSea.com.

Plan to bring at least enough fresh clothes for every day of your trip, even if you plan on re-wearing some. You'll be glad you have backups if the salty air or water gets your clothes too damp or dirty.

Boat Insurance

It's a good idea to make sure you have the right boat insurance coverage before you depart. Not only do some states require coverage, but boat insurance can give you financial peace of mind if you experience damage to your vessel or are involved in an accident.

Provisioning for your next boat trip requires planning for both comfort and safety. If you pack the right essentials, you can enjoy your time on the water with the peace of mind that you've taken all the right safety precautions.

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