Follow Coast Guard on-board requirements: Not only can having items like a horn or whistle, a charged fire extinguisher, navigation lights and life jackets potentially thwart a disaster, but not having them can result in hefty fines from the Coast Guard. Make sure to check the entire list of requirements before you head out to open water.
Conduct a thorough inspection of your vessel: Before you even turn on the engine, check your hull for cracks and holes and inspect the scuppers and Bilge Pump. This is especially easy to do if your vessel is on a boat lift.
Know the waterways you're cruising: Nothing ruins a day on the water faster than running aground; not to mention the potential damage it can do to your vessel. Keep nautical maps of your local waterways on board to navigate around the areas where you might run into trouble.
Have multiple means of communication on board: Cell phone signal can easily drop on the water, especially if you're offshore fishing or far away from land. To make sure you have a reliable means of communication, have a CB Radio on board. VHF will keep you connected at least with other boaters, should you run into trouble.
Make sure your batteries are sufficiently charged and in proper working order: Don't skimp on this - a dead battery is the last thing you want to find 15 minutes offshore. When you do check your batteries, you should also inspect all cables for corrosion.
Keep emergency kits on board: First Aid kits, jump boxes and flares prove to be life savers every year. They should be on your vessel at all times.
BYOC – Bring Your Own Captain: Have a designated captain if you intend to indulge in alcoholic beverages.
Have all the applicable permits and licenses: This is especially important if you are a fisherman. Not having the right documentation can not only lead to fines, it can also cost you your vessel.
Attain or renew a Sea Tow or Boat US membership: This is the single best piece of advice any boater can be given. The cost of a tow is staggering if you have no membership, and no one wants to be stuck at sea for hours on end.
Provided courtesy Craig Wood, CEO Hi-Tide Boat Lifts: www.hi-tide.