Best Boat Accessories: The Ultimate Checklist
As I stroll out to the pontoon boat for the first ride of the season, I’ve got my boat keys, sunnies, and a full Yeti in hand. The boat is gassed up, clean, and ready for its maiden voyage.
The dog jumps on board before anyone else can make it to the dock. The family takes their usual positions, and I flip on the battery switch. We are ready to take off, right? Wrong!
Since it’s the first day of boating season, I must first make sure I have all the gear I need to safely boat with my family and fur baby. Lifejackets for everyone? Throwable flotation device? Fire extinguisher? The list goes on.
If you think you’re ready to hit the water on May 1, make sure you run through this checklist just to make sure you have your bases covered.
Of course, you may need more or less than this list has to offer, but I hope it will get you thinking about what you need before you launch the boat this summer.
The very first thing you should do is check your local and state boating laws to learn about what safety gear is required for the body of water where you plan to boat. This can vary depending on the city, state, and type of boat.
I’m going to list some of the obvious safety gear that I recommend purchasing before your boat hits the water. This is subject to change depending on your local laws.
Every boat should have some type of safety kit that includes but is not limited to a whistle, a multitool, flares, and S.O.S. flag, all put together in a waterproof case. Depending on where you live, the Coast Guard may require a certain type of safety kit or safety items.
Life jackets are standard procedure no matter where you boat. Make sure you have enough for every person on board. I keep enough life jackets on board to match the person capacity; this way, if I have a full boat, everyone is covered.
It’s imperative to have adult-size life jackets for adults, and if you have kids on board, you must also have child-sizes available.
In my experience, anywhere I have boated, the laws have required including a throwable safety device such as a flotation cushion on board. You would throw this to someone who is having trouble in the water with the risk of drowning.
Some boats already come equipped with a fire extinguisher or at least a place to store a fire extinguisher. I suggest finding out what your local law calls for and buying one just to be safe.
This may be an afterthought, but how many times have you caught your toe on a zebra mussel or been drinking a sugary pop and got stung by a bee while on the water? These things happen, so I suggest buying a small first aid kit to keep in the dry storage of your boat.
Keep in mind, as I mentioned before, you may be required to purchase more or less safety gear than I’ve listed here depending on what your local law says. I do recommend keeping these items on board regardless.
There are a handful of items that every boat should have. As an avid boater myself, I’m here to tell you that these are non-negotiable.
Dockline is a must even if you have a boat lift that your boat sits in at your pier. It will come in handy in case you stop at a marina for gas, grab takeout from your local waterfront restaurant, or any time you need to tie up to a pier.
A good rule of thumb is to keep as many lines onboard as there are cleats. This will also come in handy if you need an extra line to extend an anchor rope or want to tie up to your friend's boat at the sandbar.
Every boat should keep at least two fenders on board at all times. Fenders, also called bumpers, will protect your boat from damage if you’re tied up to a dock or another boat. Some boats will even include fender holders for easy storage.
The body of water where you boat will dictate the type of anchor you need. For example, we take our pontoon boat to a sandbar, so we use an auger-style sand anchor to hold us in place.
There are a plethora of anchor choices out there, so make sure to find the right one for your boat and outings planned. I recommend keeping at least one anchor on board at all times.
Something you hopefully won't need but will be extremely helpful if you find yourself in a pinch is a jump starter box. Say you're at the sandbar for hours running the radio off of your house battery and it's dead when you try to start the boat to go home. The jump box will save you from having to be towed in! Worth the money, trust me on this one.
One item that's usually an afterthought but important when you need it in the moment is boat cleaner. Things happen like spills, bird droppings, all kinds of gross stuff. Keeping interior cleaner and a roll of paper towels on board will help you keep hard stains off your furniture.
Two words: floating keychain, you’ll thank me later.
This is my very basic must-have list. Each item will make your life easier while out on the water.
Whether you have a pontoon boat, a towboat, a speed boat, or some other type of boat, you might be interested in some type of watersport.
If your boat has an outboard engine, it’s important to know that you should never do any type of water sport that requires you to be up close and personal with the engine, such as wake surfing.
If you have an I/O or inboard, that’s a different story. Wakesurfing is much safer with those types of engines and can be a fun way to spend the afternoon.
That said, with just about any type of boat, you can water ski, wakeboard, tube, and kneeboard. These can be fun for all ages, you just need the right equipment on board.
Remember to also include tow ropes that are made specifically for each of these activities. You might also keep a 12V air pump on board to plug in and blow up tubes or floating devices.
Speaking of floating around, splash pads have become increasingly popular for kids who love to swim and play in the water all day. Some boat manufacturers are even finding a way to include splash pad storage for easy transport.
Watersports can be a ton of fun for those of all ages. Make sure you check with the local laws regarding safe practices such as wearing life jackets and time restrictions.
Boat Bag Worthy
I keep a loaded boat bag, much like a beach bag, near the door that leads to our dock. This bag has a constant set of items in it at all times.
I keep multiple levels of SPF in my bag to share with everyone. Some days you might be in the sun longer, some days you may wear a hat, and the SPF strength you need will vary. I make sure my SPF is water-resistant and discard it after its expiration date.
I keep a handful of koozies in my bag to share with others on board. I also keep an extra pair of sunglasses in case mine end up on the bottom of the lake or a friend needs to borrow a pair.
If your boat has a trash can built-in, that’s a bonus. Either way, I keep a trash bag in my boat bag at all times. There’s no excuse for trash to end up in the lake and this is a great way to keep that from happening.
A few other items to bring along with your boat bag are a stocked cooler, towels, and water shoes. I also keep a few pairs of cheap flip flops in the boat at all times in case there’s a pit stop that requires shoes.
Where to Buy Your Boat Accessories
If you see things on this list that you want to include in your boat gear, you can find any of them easily. For the obvious stuff like SPF and coolers, find what works best for you.
For items like boat fenders, life jackets, and dock lines, you should be able to find this kind of stuff at your boat dealership. For safety kits and other items, you can find nearly everything online.
I recommend doing your research on what your local laws require and make a list of items that will make your time on the water most enjoyable.