Check List for Small Recreational Vessel Owners

When we launch our small motorboat we do everything we remember then cast our eye over our checklist.

Check List for Small Recreational Vessel Owners

Here’s a detailed check List for Small Recreational Vessel Owners, read below or print out check list for motorboats if you’d like a copy to adapt to your boat/crew.

It takes two minutes to cast your eye over a checklist, and it could save that embarrassment of leaving a bung out or leaving something important like a portable VHF Radio behind.


Launching – Fully prepare your vessel in the car park, not on the ramp.

  • All bungs are in
  • The battery is connected
  • Fuel and oil levels
  • Double check weather
  • All required gear (and extra) is onboard and functional
  • Provisions such as drinking water, clothing, food etc in on board
  • Sailboats: check for overhead wires/hazards
  • Everything stowed correctly
  • Tie downs and lighting boards, winch handle, etc., removed and stowed correctly
  • Mooring line ready at the bow to control the boat when it is launched
  • Check the ramp is safe, slippery etc., (wear appropriate footwear)
  • Reverse the car to float the boat’s stern, Keep the trailer axles above the waterline
  • Release the winch and proceed with a slow launch
  • Clear the ramp: tie the boat to the dock and remove the car/trailer


  • Personnel/passenger assessment – swimming, boating knowledge, diet etc.,
  • Climbing on to/moving around boat
    Location of equipment (lifejackets, water, food, medication, emergency)
    Proposed trip, what to look out for, study chart/map together
    Listen to Skipper – alert skipper of anything unusual
  • Procedure for emergency situation
    • Discuss: fire and engine breaking down
    • Procedure: MOB and Abandoning the boat, EPIRB, etc.,
    • LISTEN to captain
    • Who will take command if the Skipper is injured – unable?
    • Identify the emergency
    • Communicate with everyone onboard – allocate tasks
    • Raise the alarm
    • Emergency signals– flare and EPIRBS – mention mirrors and waving arms, V-sheet, dye marker
    • Continue communication with rescuers until stood down
    • How to identify your position in case of emergency – study the chart and intended voyage (Can your no. 2 use the chart/GPS?)
  • Log book, location and how to fill it out/use
  • Hypothermia – awareness
  • Off-shore considerations: log on to Marine Rescue, seasickness
  • Bar conditions now and expected return time

Preparation for abandoning boat

  • Take drinking water
    Don life jackets
  • Identify location
    Communicate to rescuers
  • Utilise/take tools: EPIRB, life rings, clothing
  • Deploy sea anchor (i.e. slow the boat down)
  • Stay with boat

Safety Reminders – coming alongside

  • Remember: you can repair a boat but it is harder to repair limbs
  • Constantly check for hazards, e.g. swimmers, fishing lines, etc.,
  • Prepare the lines
  • If you are tying up to a fixed jetty remember to allow for tidal rise/fall
  • Double check your lines, tying up.
Even the smallest tenders need to have checks
Even the smallest tenders need to have checks

Pre-Departure checks

  • Everyone onboard understands usage and functionality of all safety equipment
  • Knowledge – check chart together/Survey area
  • Radio check – log in
  • Forward and astern checked
  • Gauges
  • Everything necessary on board
  • Brief crew on casting off
  • Look around for hazards before casting off
  • Ensure all lines are inboard
  • Complete logbook

Undocking instructions

  • Hatches and exterior doors closed not locked (able to open from both sides for an emergency)
  • Allocate tasks to everyone
  • Remind all onboard the process is done calmly and slowly

Setting off

  • Start engine, allowing it to warm before setting off
  • Untie mooring ropes from jetty
  • All lines are inside the boat and not trailing in the water
  • Lines on boat furled
  • Check area is clear of traffic before moving away
  • Note speed limits or ‘no wash’ signs in the area.
  • Do not create excessive wash, especially passing people, boats
  • Right side of the channel and observe all navigation marks and signs


  • Maintain patience while slowing down and stopping, take time to allow the boat to stop
  • Ease off the throttle and move into neutral
  • Use short bursts in reverse gear to slow down and stop
  • Astern propulsion – use forward boost if necessary
  • Steering: feel of the wheel and the rudder position before setting off
  • Plan ahead, wait for the boat to respond
A quick cast over a list will check all is well
A quick cast over a list will check all is well

Tying up

  • Secure with lines to both the bow and stern
  • Choose bollards/cleats a short distance beyond the bow and stern
  • Run lines about 45 degrees from the boat
  • Loop lines back onto boat securely, double check. Ensure they are not too tight
  • Account for rise and fall of the tide.
  • Check lines often for chaffing
  • Maintain your lines, wash off salt water, dry before furling, keep out of the sun
  • Furl lines, free of knots
  • Note that knots weaken lines. Splicing is stronger for creating loops


  • Slow down almost to a stop
  • Manoeuvre as slowly as possible
  • Consider wind and currents and stem them, i.e. head into the strongest (assess the conditions by stopping and sitting in neutral for a moment, away from the dock/mooring)
  • Point bow towards the mooring buoy, apply astern propulsion as you reach buoy
  • Engine in neutral

Let go the mooring

  • Brief crew/allocate tasks
    Start the engine
  • Ease gently forward to create some slack in the line
  • Untie from cleat and throw it clear
  • Apply astern propulsion, or manoeuvre to keep stern/prop away from the line


  • Is your mooring equipment sufficient to handle the vessel’s size and weight during all weather conditions?
  • Ensure your mooring is serviced annually by a qualified contractor.

En route checks

  • Identify markers/buoys
  • Maintain a lookout by sight and sound
  • Prepare for planing or large manoeuvre (brief passengers), e.g. ‘everyone ready? Sit down and hold on.’
  • Gauges
  • Weather
  • Passengers
  • Location

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