Must-Have Safety Equipment For Sport Boats

Standard boating equipment requirements may vary by lake, body of water, and authority, but these essentials can help prevent severe problems for the water. From floatable sunglasses to a sound-signaling device, these are must-haves.

This comprehensive boat safety kit includes a VHF radio with digital selective calling (DSC) to communicate with other boats, a manual bailer for removing excess water, and a waterproof flashlight and whistle for visual and sound signaling.

Life Jackets

Life jackets (personal flotation devices or PFDs) are the most crucial safety equipment on any boat. Ensure you carry enough Coast Guard-approved wearable life jackets for every occupant on board and that they are correctly fitted and maintained.

Type I, Offshore Buoyancy Vest: Designed to turn unconscious wearers face up in the water and to allow them to breathe air, this style of life jacket is best for open waters or any time that rescue may be delayed. 

Type II, Near-Shore Buoyancy Vest: These twin-chamber jackets are great for calm inland waters and can be thrown to a person in the water. You’ll often find this life jacket style in float coats or fishing vests.

For youngsters, opt for versions with crotch straps to prevent them from riding up or slipping off. To read more about different types of life jackets, visit the website. Aim for a life jacket that rises above the wearer’s chin in shallow water.

Life Rafts

While most days boating is trouble-free, prudent offshore boaters prepare for the worst with standard operating procedures, including a life raft deployment.

Under federal law, boats 16 feet or longer must carry at least one throwable (Type IV) flotation device. A valise-packed life raft can be mounted on deck but is better stowed away from sails and rigging, where it may get caught during a man overboard or other emergency.

A canister-packed life raft is more robust and should be mounted where it can be easily deployed, such as on the pushpit rail. It should also be stowed away from combustible material, such as clothing. A life raft is only helpful if it works, so proper maintenance is essential. It includes yearly inflation testing and an inspection by the manufacturer.

Initial Care Kit

It is highly recommended to keep a first aid kit on your boat at all times, as it can prove to be a life-saving resource in case of an emergency. It should be stocked according to the number of people on board and the remoteness of your boating area.

Pain relievers are essential for treating any injuries that occur onboard. Burn gels can also help treat minor burns on the water. Critical medical supplies include a thermometer, eye wash, and allergy medications.

Whether you purchase a first aid kit or put together your own, it’s best to store it in an airtight container that can protect its contents from wet, salty conditions and humidity. Also, add scissors and shears for cutting tape, gauze, or clothing and tweezers for removing ticks or splinters on the water.

Navigation Lights

The lights are a necessary piece of equipment for boats that operate after sunset and during times of restricted visibility. They help other boaters see the size and direction of the vessel when they are not in sight.

They can also help to prevent accidents and collisions that can occur at night or during periods of reduced visibility. Like a car’s red light, a boat’s red port side light signals the vessel has the right of way, while a green starboard light indicates that the ship must give way.


Having visual distress signals on board is vital for attracting attention and requesting assistance in emergencies. Whether you are out in cold water and risking hypothermia or need to attract the attention of search and rescue services, you can use a red hand flare or an orange smoke flare to let people know something is wrong and needs help.

The safety equipment you need on your boat depends on its size and the water you’re sailing in. However, a few items are required by law for every vessel, regardless of size.

These include pyrotechnic (red handheld and parachute) and non-pyrotechnic devices like orange distress flags and electric distress lights. Keep your boat equipped with these essentials and review how to use them before each outing.

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