There’s nothing better than spending a day out on the water—until that moment when you realize you’ve left your sunscreen, snacks or bottled water behind. Going back to shore is a drag—but with a little strategic planning, you’ll never have to turn around again. Charles Fort, director of consumer protection and associate editor at BoatUS Magazine, has created the ultimate packing list.
1. Proper paperwork
You wouldn’t get behind the wheel without your license and registration, right? Well, the same goes for boating. Fort recommends keeping documents like your fishing license and boat registration in a safe, dry place. “Most small boats have something like a glove box for papers,” he says. Stash your insurance policy information here as well in case of an accident. GEICO offers boat insurance plans that cover both your boat and the boating gear.
2. Enough food and drink for a crowd
It’s often easier to become dehydrated on a boat than on land, says Fort. Why? Wind makes it hard to feel the heat and gauge how much you’re sweating. He recommends that passengers drink about 8 ounces of water every hour. “The key is to begin drinking water as soon as you get on the boat,” he says. “And leave the dehydrating alcohol and caffeinated drinks back at the dock.” Block ice will last longer than cubes, and you can freeze gallon-size jugs to have an all-day supply of cold water. Bring a cooler—finger foods like fruit kebabs, cheeses and veggies with dip travel well. Opt for canned chips (instead of bagged ones), since they take up less space and won’t get smushed. Sandwiches are a great staple.
3. The right protection
Include plenty of sunscreen, insect repellent and towels on your packing list. Remind passengers to bring lip balm with sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Polarized lenses are best when on the water. Stash a bottle of aloe gel in your cooler to soothe sunburns.
4. Extra outfits
You need clothes for play (bathing suit, flip-flops), clothes to change into (rash guard or long-sleeve shirt) for chilly evenings, and “just-in-case” clothes (rain jacket, etc.). Fort advises against boating barefoot, as decks can get pretty hot.
5. Safety gear
State requirements for life jackets vary, so check to see what you need for each person on board here. Boats often come equipped with things like fire extinguishers, but a basic first aid kit for cuts and scrapes is a good addition. Remind passengers to bring important prescription medicines. Keep a small bag on the boat with supplies like duct tape, extra line, a flashlight and a knife for simple fixes. A nautical chart of the area is handy, and if you’re on the water very often, consider a towing membership for breakdowns. Cell phones and chargers should be packed, but most rescue authorities prefer that boaters take and use a fully charged, very high frequency (VHF) radio for emergencies. “A VHF will broadcast to other boaters nearby, and cell phones don’t always work away from shore,” says Fort.
Make sure a deck of cards and other games are on your packing list. Toys such as towing tubes and lines or rafts amp up the fun—and provide the perfect photo ops.
7. Cleanup items
Bring lots of plastic baggies for leftovers. Heavy-duty baggies are also good for waterproof protection of wallets, keys and cell phones. Trash bags are great for quick cleanups, as are all-purpose cleaning wipes.
8. Bathroom basics
If your boat has a bathroom, stock up on toilet paper and hand soap.
Before you leave the dock, make sure you’re protected with boat insurance. Get a fast, free quote from GEICO today.
Now that you have your packing list, check out these top boating destinations for inspiration on where to set sail.
By Danielle Blundell