Safety on the water is important whether you are traveling for an hour or a year. Though the list of safety items for a short trip in a small pond or river is short (often just a personal flotation device), going offshore may require a bit more planning to be properly prepared. Everyone has their must-have item, but here are some of the biggest.

Before You Go Boating

When planning for any journey, it is a good idea to figure out a route, and stay relatively close to that plan. Even adventurers have a general direction and an expected timeline. Doing this before leaving allows a chance to create a float plan, similar to a backpacking route, and to leave it with trusted friends or family on land to report to the coast guard if you have not checked-in or returned by a set date. On this float plan, it is helpful for whoever is searching for you to know your planned route, expected fuel and mooring stops, number of people and physical capability (children, elderly), as well as any medical conditions and essential medications so that if you are gone longer, they can be prepared to assist you in other ways as well. Do not be too rigid with the return time as things happen both good and bad that may extend your journey. No one would want to be caught in the middle of a pod of breaching orcas and have to head home without watching because the float plan insisted that you call the rescue team one minute after you were due back. Instead, give yourself a grace period of half a day or more for a shorter trip, and one to three days on a longer trip, and call in if you can to let your float plan keepers know you are still safe but returning later than expected.

10 Boating Safety Essentials

Personal Floatation Devices

VHF Radio 

Navigational Items 

Smoke/CO Detectors and Fire Extinguishers

Ziploc and Dry Bags 

Signal Tools — Whistle, Air Horn, and Flares 

Alternate Propulsion

Source of Warmth 

First Aid Kit 

Water 

Though nothing can prevent an emergency, having a lot of forethought when it comes to safety can go a long way in keeping you prepared when something does go wrong. Many things, like fires, may be a nuisance on land but are much more dangerous on board a boat. By having everything you need to deal with prevention, correction, and evacuation, you will ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers in many situations.