They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But when it comes to “sea dogs” or any other waterborne sailor, the important thing is remembering the “tricks” you should already know about safe boating.

There’s no more important time for this than when you’re preparing your watercraft for the boating season.

It’d be easy to get carried away by the excitement and anticipation of your first spring or summer voyage and overlook the safety and other prepping essentials.

There are tens of thousands of leisure boating enthusiasts in Ontario — from kayakers to fishing fans, and from sail yacht to power cruiser owners. And for every one of them it’s essential, as well as plain commonsense, to prepare carefully as the warmer weather beckons us onto the water.

In fact, depending on the type of vessel, there can be scores of things you must do to ensure your safety and that of others.

Quick Boat Checklist

Among other guidance, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which represents boat and equipment builders in both Canada and the United States, offers the following checklist tips:

  • Ensure your registration license, pleasure craft operator card and decal for the boat are up to date.
  • Inspect the hull and other structural parts for damage.
  • If there’s an engine, test it and ensure the battery is charged.
  • Check navigation lights and other electronics (including, for instance, GPS systems).
  • Inspect and test all safety equipment, especially lifejackets.
  • Check your trailer connections, structure and tires.
  • Update and replace old charts.
  • Ensure you have a fully-stocked first aid kit.

You can find the NMMA’s full checklist for Canada here:

When you’ve read through that, you may feel more than a little uncertain about your ability to conduct all the checks. Don’t worry. If you’re not familiar with the equipment or technology, it makes sense to have a pro mechanic do the checks for you.

More Boating Tips

There are many more things you can do to improve the safety not just of your boat but also those it carries. For example, there are scores of boating safety courses both in classes on online. The more you learn, the safer you will potentially be.

Boating expert Jane Warren, for the NMMA, says it’s also a good idea to plan for the unexpected well before you venture out. What, for example, would you do if you were stranded?

Having a good way of getting in touch with potential rescuers would be essential.

“The longer your planned trip will be, the more means of communication you will need — as well as extra batteries for any devices that require them,” she advises.

“A radio, flare, and a locator beacon are good choices. While cell phones are okay, you should not rely only on one: the battery could die, or service may not be available where you will be traveling.”

Also, will your communication equipment work if it becomes water-damaged?

Other emergency equipment might include a simple whistle and brightly colored flotation devices. In case you take on water, you should have a manual bilge pump. No use having an electric one if there’s no juice!

“Finally,” she adds, “because you never know if something is going to happen to your motor, make sure you have an emergency means of mobility, such as paddles, on board. Keeping a few paddles on your boat can be a big help if your motor dies.”

Peak Boating Condition

Beyond immediate safety requirements, there are some important steps you can take at the outset to ensure your boat is maintained in peak condition throughout the season. These include:

  • Applying several waxing coats before the vessel is immersed.
  • Painting metal fixtures that could be subject to rust, and cleaning and polishing bright metals.
  • Cleaning canvases, bimini and dodgers.
  • Don’t forget either to make preparations for your specific type of boat adventure. If you’re boating to fish, check your rods and reels. If it’s water skiing or Ski-Doing, check both engines and ski lines for security.

Don’t Go Without This

One other critical “don’t” — don’t sail without good boating insurance.

No one knows better than a boater the huge costs of repairing and maintaining vessels and their equipment as well as of making good on fuel spillage.

Furthermore, since boat insurance is not mandatory in Ontario, even if you’re the best sailor in the world there’s always the risk of a collision caused by another vessel whose owner turns out to be uninsured.

You’ll be relieved to know you can insure against that through Secure Insurance Solutions.

Knowing you have strong insurance in place will help you enjoy your boating experiences with peace of mind. Knowing you got it through Secure Insurance Solutions will give you the confidence that you got the best price, backed by the friendliest service and round-the-clock support.