Boat Must-Haves: 9 Things You Need on a Boat

June 29, 2021

Have you recently bought a boat and need to outfit it? From useful accessories to safety equipment, there are countless boat must-haves that you should carry on board. From basic items like a bimini shade and sunscreen to a waterproof Bluetooth radio to stream some tunes, a boater’s wishlist is practically never-ending.

However, there are some that are more important than others. If you are just starting out on the water, here are nine things you need on a boat to make the experience more enjoyable and fun.

#1 First Aid Kit and Emergency Equipment

Another boat must-have? A first aid kit and emergency equipment. When you head out on the water, away from immediate help, a first aid kit could save a life. At the very least, it can help with motion sickness or be used to sanitize a cut from a fish hook. So what needs to go into a marine-oriented first aid kit? While it depends on the vessel classification, here’s some items to consider. Keep them in a watertight case to prevent moisture damage, too.

  • Dramamine/motion sickness medicine
  • Bandages
  • Signaling flares
  • Multi-use tool
  • Loud whistle
  • Water bailing bucket
  • Rechargeable flashlight

#2 A Cooler

Whether you plan to head out on the water to do a little fishing or sunbathing, a cooler is a boat must-have. A personal cooler can keep drinks ice cold so you can stay hydrated throughout a hot, summer day. Are you the captain of a fishing vessel? Then you need a fishing cooler to keep the catch fresh until the fish fry. Make sure to choose a cooler that can keep ice preserved for not just hours, but days. Choosing a convenient rolling cooler can take the weight off your knees and back, too.

#3 Marine Fire Extinguisher

One of the most important things you need on a boat is a marine fire extinguisher. Again, the type of fire extinguisher you need depends on the vessel. A smaller fishing boat’s extinguisher will be different than for something like a sailboat or catamaran, so be sure to check the regulations and get the right kind (or the right number). Already have a fire extinguisher? Make sure it’s not expired!

#4 Spare Paddles

Don’t be a sitting duck if your boat’s engine fails. Pick up a few spare paddles to help you get to safety or back to the local marina. It will be a workout, but at least you can get closer to home while you wait for a tow. Of course, you might not be able to paddle a larger boat, but a paddle is a boat must-have for smaller vessels. Look for something that’s compact and easy to store with a telescopic handle. Make sure it is plastic and floats, too!

#5 Dock Lines and Fenders

fun boat experience

Another thing you need on a boat is a set of fenders and extra line. When docking at a nearby marina or at a crowded boating area, fenders can protect your boat from getting dinged up and offer some cushioning if you need to tie up to a buddy’s boat. Look for dock lines that are double-braided and made of a water-resistant nylon material that can withstand mold, rot and sun damage.

#6 Anchor

Make sure to have an anchor on your boat at all times. A solid anchor can keep you steady in an unexpected storm or simply secure your boat when you pull up to a crowded island for lunch. Of course, make sure to do your research and choose the correct anchor for your lake or ocean’s floor. It should also have enough chain (five times the maximum water depth you expect to anchor in) and rope.

#7 GPS/Fishfinder

A GPS/fishfinder navigation device isn’t just for anglers. While it can help locate fish through the use of high-frequency sonar, a GPS can also be beneficial in determining the depth of unfamiliar bodies of water. It can indicate trees, rocks and other obstacles that are invisible beneath the surface, which can prevent damage to props and other impacts.

#8 VHF Radio

One piece of equipment that boats need on board is a VHF radio. This is especially true for larger vessels that need to communicate with other boaters, call for rescue or reach out to marinas, harbors and bridge operators to request permission to travel through. However, a VHF radio can come in just as handy on smaller boats, too.

#9 Extra Handheld Horn

While every boating vessel has a built-in horn, there’s still a chance it could become damaged and inoperable. That’s why, in the event of an emergency, you should always carry a backup handheld horn. A spare horn, such as a foghorn, can help you sound an alarm and send an alert to fellow boaters nearby. Don’t just go out and buy any horn though. Make sure it meets U.S. Coast Guard requirements and offers a powerful and loud signal (such as 120 decibels) that can travel across water. For added convenience, find a horn that’s easily refillable, using something as simple as a bike pump.

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