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October 01, 2010

20 Tips for Successful Boating Trips

Whether you plan to take your boat far afield on your trailer or on its own bottom, you must formulate significantly more organized plans than you would for a simple day sail from your own backyard...



By Water

1.  Evaluate whether your boat truly can make a substantial journey. Does it have engine or electrical problems that if they worsen could be life threatening? Be sure all systems work and make any necessary repairs.

2.  Prepare your route at home using maps or electronic charting software. Load all waypoints into your onboard plotter. Bring paper charts to back up your electronics. Bring backup, handheld versions of your chart plotter and VHF radio. If you're heading offshore, be sure to have an EPIRB. You can rent one from BoatU.S. Foundation (

3.  Research the weather patterns for your destination based on the timing of your visit. You should know prevailing wind direction and speed, rainfall predictions and potential sea conditions.

4.  Do you carry enough gas or diesel in your integral tanks to make it to your destination with fuel to spare? If not, take enough extra fuel in bladders to complete the trip with a 10 percent cushion. Check with the bladder manufacturer about proper handling/stowing and fuel transfer.

5.  Carry a full inventory of tools and spare parts for engines, pumps and tackle, and bring extra fuses for electronics. (

6.  Fill out a float plan ( and leave it with a responsible person onshore. Arrange to contact that person when you arrive at your destination. If several hours pass and you don't communicate, the onshore contact can call the U.S. Coast Guard and provide your float plan.

7.  Don't rely on the $3-special life jackets that do little more than meet your carriage requirements. Provide each person aboard a good-quality life jacket (visit for information on proper devices). And it wouldn't hurt to wear them while in transit.

8.  Bring all the tackle you think you'll need, plus spare spools, reel parts, line, leader and hooks. If you plan to fish a remote area, consider taking frozen bait with you.

9.  Confirm reservations. Before departing, contact your destination and confirm your slip rental and hotel rooms. Also ask about the availability of your fuel type and its cost.

10. If traveling internationally, know where to clear customs and learn local regulations. All passengers must bring proper paperwork, and captains must know what documents may be required for their vessels.

11. You can often save money by taking your own food to far-flung outposts. But be sure it's well frozen, properly packed in coolers and stowed carefully. On any voyage of any length, you should bring enough potable water to cover transit and emergencies.

By Land

12. Before trailering your boat any distance, clean and wax it to help protects its finish.

13. Cover/remove/protect fragile parts like Lucite or plexiglass windscreens.

14. If you have an outboard boat, make sure to support the engine with its own flip-down brace or an ­aftermarket strut.

15. Secure your boat to the trailer. Roads can be rough, and boats can shift or come off if not properly tied down. Lock your trailer to the vehicle and lock the hitch to prevent theft.

16. Store tackle and other ­equipment inside your locked vehicle or hotel room.

17. Research trailer parking and ramps at your destination. Many lots fill early and may leave you waterless if you don't plan ahead.

18. If your boat and trailer are oversize (generally wider than 8 feet, 6 inches), contact the appropriate departments of transportation in every state on your route for the correct permits. To check state regulations, visit

19. Take a grease gun and extra bearing grease, a set of spare tires and a jack for your trailer. Other spares should include bulbs for all trailer lights.

20. Make sure your boat insurance covers your boat and trailer for everywhere you'll travel. Consider BoatU.S. Trailer Assist ( or Sea Tow's trailering road service ( plans.