Getting Ready for Boating Season


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Vessel Safety Checks You Can Do Yourself

The snow is melting, and it is time to take our boats out of winter storage as we look ahead to the coming boating season. Most of us are eager to hit the water for a carefree day of relaxing with family and friends. There is nothing I enjoy more than hopping on my Manitou pontoon boat and cruising the lakes near where I live. Whether towing my kids on their wakeboards or stopping at a remote beach for a picnic, we really connect when we are on the water. I feel like our best journeys are the ones we take together. That’s why, I believe that my boat is perfect for my family, with comfortable seating, plenty of cup holders, and a kicking sound system. It also is built with Manitou V-Toon technology, which provides excellent stability and cornering control when towing the kids.



If you’re like me, you actually enjoy the little maintenance tasks and take great pride in keeping your boat in top shape and looking its best. Your boat is a reflection of who you are, and you love to stand out from the crowd. However, due to such high demand for boats recently and the skyrocketing number of new boaters, for many, this may be the first season that they are taking their boats out of storage and doing a recommissioning themselves. Here’s just a partial list of things I check on my Manitou at the start of every season to make sure that I am in compliance with Coast Guard, state and local regulations and my boat is in perfect shape and ready for a fantastic boating season. If you want help with this process, you can get a free Vessel Safety Inspection from your local Coast Guard Auxiliary or America’s Boating Club squadron. The beginning of the season is also a good time to take a safety class like the free, state-specific courses offered by BoatUS.


Getting Ready for Boating Season Vessel Safety Checks You Can Do Yourself The snow is melting, and it is time to take our boats out

Vessel Safety Checks You Can Do Yourself – Get Ready for Boating Season!

If you’ve already had at least one boating season under your belt, you probably have the required registration numbers, boat name, and home port stenciled on your boat or marked with stickers or decals. If so, the first thing you can do to get your boat ready for the season is to make sure your state registration, U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation, and insurance papers are current and kept in a safe location on board and easily available. I keep important documents, safety equipment, and a first aid kit all in a waterproof ditch bag that is ready to be grabbed at a moment’s notice. It isn’t required, but it makes things easy in a stressful situation and if you are boarded by local authorities, they’ll appreciate you being organized and able to courteously help them do their jobs as efficiently as possible.


Getting Ready for Boating Season Vessel Safety Checks You Can Do Yourself The snow is melting, and it is time to take our boats out


Vessel Safety Checks You Can Do Yourself – Safety Equipment

When it comes to safety equipment, there are three categories you need to make sure you have onboard: PFDs or life jackets, signaling devices and fire extinguishers. PFDs must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, in good condition, easily accessible, and of suitable size for each person on the boat. If you plan on having children on your boat, the start of the season is the best time to make sure that their PFDs fit properly. Just like a pair of shoes, kids can grow out of their life jackets in the blink of an eye. Boats 16 feet in length or longer, must also have one throwable PFD. Whether a floating seat cushion on the helm seat or in a bag, mounted to the gunnel or back rail, the throwable PFD should be easily accessible and ready to be deployed immediately in the event of a man overboard situation. If you frequently go out with the same people, you might want to practice a man overboard drill at some point early in the season. It helps to make sure you are prepared for a worse-case-scenario and it is also a good way to practice your boat handling skills.

Signaling equipment like flares, smoke signals, flags, air horns, or whistles are required depending on the size of your boat and where and when you use it. Check Coast Guard regulations to make sure you have what you need for your area and physically look them over to make sure they have not expired.

Fire extinguishers are on the list of things that you hope you never need but are vital in an emergency. The size, number, and location of your fire extinguishers are subject to Coast Guard regulations and you should check the rules to make sure that you comply. Fire extinguishers should also be checked to make sure they are full and in good working order. Here’s a tip, if your boat has been in storage for the winter, you may want to tap on your fire extinguishers with a rubber mallet – the chemicals inside can settle and clump if stationary.


Getting Ready for Boating Season Vessel Safety Checks You Can Do Yourself The snow is melting, and it is time to take our boats out


Vessel Safety Checks You Can Do Yourself – Boat Systems

Once you ensure you have all of the necessary equipment, you should check the overall condition of your boat systems. Your boat must be free from fire hazards and the bilges should be reasonably clean to help spot leaks or issues and any visible hull structure should be generally sound. Electrical equipment, switches, and fuse panels have to be protected from rain or water spray, and wiring should be in good condition, with no exposed areas or broken or cracked insulation. Your batteries must be secured, and terminals covered to prevent accidental arcing. If your boat comes with a kill switch it must be in proper working order – and don’t forget to use it every time you go out. You should also check the functions of any navigation lights and replace light bulbs if necessary.

While this is just a partial checklist of things needed to recommission your boat and it may seem like a daunting task, it really shouldn’t be a chore. By going through your boat at the beginning of every season, you can be sure that your boat is safe and functional. This will give you peace of mind so you can enjoy your time on the water.

To learn more about the performance, stability, and handling Manitou V-Toon technology gives and to learn how you can reimagine what’s possible with a Manitou pontoon, visit Don’t forget to follow Manitou on their Facebook and Instagram profiles and subscribe to the Manitou YouTube channel.

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