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Before going sailing, it is important to check that the boat is in good condition to ensure a calm and safe voyage, especially if it has not been done since the summer. In this article we provide you with a checklist for safe sailing. 
Getting on a boat and sailing the open sea, whether it be by yourself, with a partner, family or friends, is one of the best sensations of knowing how to sail. Checking that the boat is in a good condition to do so is of utmost importance when ensuring the safety of those onboard, it helps guarantee a safe journey and allows you to better enjoy the voyage. That’s why going through a complete checklist before sailing can have a big impact on the outcome of your voyage. 

How can you sail safely?

In order to sail and navigate safely it is important to go over the boat's safety procedures before sailing. The general aim is to know if the boat is in good condition and is working properly. It is also the time to check the location of all the essential navigation and safety equipment for the entire crew.
No matter your level of experience, it is always important to keep in mind the following points before sailing:
  • Go over all the points on the checklist
  • Look at meteorological forecasts and the sailing conditions: strength and wind direction, visibility, tides, time of sunset, etc. 
  • Have a useful app for sailors or up-to-date charts and books, as well as information about the route (moorings, anchorages, buoys, etc.) and the appropriate navigation and steering equipment (rudder, compass and logbook). 
  • Plan the route beforehand and always inform a family member, friend or the Yacht Club of the course you will follow.
  • Have the appropriate safety equipment, supplies and other essential equipment in the necessary quantities for the journey.
  • Adhere to the boat specifications in terms of size, number of passengers, weight, etc.
  • Bring documentation that could be legally required: valid insurance policy, ID, certificates, registration, flag and identification plate of the vessel and a valid boat licence.
  • Be conscious of your surroundings when sailing: other sailors in the area and of your own limits. 


pre-sailing checklist

In order to sail and navigate safely it is important to go over the boat's safety procedures before sailing.


Pre-Sailing Checklist 

The aim of a checklist is to ensure that the vessel is safe in terms of having an impermeable hull, a motor in good condition, functioning safety equipment, sufficient supplies and essential spare parts. Checking all of these aspects before setting sail will really help make sure you have a good voyage.

The Hull

Ensuring the hull is in good condition is an extremely important step to take before going sailing. Crucially, the correct waterproofing of the hull ensures that the vessel stays afloat and makes sure water cannot seep into areas where there could be electric cables, for example.
  • Checking the water tightness and the bilge system: clean and dry bilge, bilge pumps or thru-hulls, toilets, sinks, sluices, gutter, portholes and the watertight closure of hatches.
  • Handrails around the boat must be securely fastened and in good condition in case someone has to hold on to them during the voyage.
  • Anchors and ropes in good condition.


Engine and Propulsion System

Checking the condition of the engine is essential for safe sailing. 
  • Correct operation of warning lights and alarm indicators.
  • Propeller in good condition.
  • Batteries charged and electrical circuits functioning correctly. Power sockets must be in perfect condition.
  • Always carry a sufficient amount of fuel. Although it is advisable to go sailing with a full tank, a reasonable safety margin is to calculate approximately one third (1/3) of the tank as a reserve for unforeseen events. Also check for fuel leaks.
  • Observe, with the engine switched off, that the oil and coolant levels are correct. Fluids should appear clean and well above the minimum capacity.
  • Check that the engine cooling is adequate. Check the water pump and that the thermostat is in the correct position.
  • Ensure that the engine belt is tight and in good condition.
  • Check filters and spark plugs properly.

For more information on:

How to Maintain an Outboard Engine

Safety Equipment

No pre-sailing checklist would be complete without an exhaustive inspection of all the essential safety equipment. From fire extinguishers to first-aid kits to radios, everything should be working properly in case of an emergency. 
Whether the boat is used for fishing, water-skiing, diving, day cruising or overnight stays, essential safety equipment must always be included. If this equipment is kept on board,it should be inspected regularly and kept in good working condition.  
Depending on the boat model and the area in which you will be sailing, some of the security measures will be compulsory and others only recommended. Whatever the case, it is best to include the majority of them on board, including in smaller boats. 
  • Check that all the security equipment on board is up-to-date and has not expired. Pay extra attention to fire extinguishers. Everything that has expired should be replaced before setting sail.  
  • Check that the flares, night signals and other visual distress signals (VDS) are in working condition. In the event that an alert needs to be sent out, these tools will be essential. 
  • One of the most important points of the pre-sailing checklist is to ensure that there are life jackets in different sizes and for all ages in the boat. There should be a life jacket for each person on board. They should be easily accessible and in good condition. The life jackets should also have a floatation device that can be tied to a person in case someone falls overboard. This can be a lifebuoy, a regular buoy or an inflatable lilo. Some of these have cords to help get the person closer to the boat. 
  • In some types of boat it is mandatory to have rafts, man overboard (MOB) equipment, smoke signals and rockets with lights and parachutes. 
  • Make sure you include oars, paddles or other propulsion devices in case of engine failure.
  • As well as checking that the navigation lights are working, it is also important to have torches with spare batteries. It is also recommended to have an LED flashlight if you have to sail during the night.  
  • Check if you have an audible signaling device (horn, whistle or bell). While sailing, there could be a situation where it is necessary to use one of these devices to communicate with other boats, or in case of bad visibility or fog. 
  • An important point on the checklist is to make sure that you have a first aid kit that has all the basic supplies: Painkillers, medicine for motion sickness, thermometer, tweezers, scissors, alcohol, iodine tincture, gauze and bandages, plasters, sunscreen, after-sun lotion and compresses.
  • Check that the VHF transmitter and communication equipment are working properly and are in good working order. Being able to communicate by radio is essential to ensure the safety of the crew, the vessel and other sailors.
  • It is also advisable to carry a mobile phone and GPS.
  • Mooring lines.
  • Dredging equipment such as a bucket or pump.



Checking the essential supplies each time you go sailing will help increase your chances of having a safe trip. 
  • Water tanks should be full to ensure that there is enough drinking water for all passengers on board. Just in case, it is a good idea to have some extra bottled water on board for emergencies.
  • It is important to also include a good amount of food that does not expire, as well as fresh food that does not require cooking. 
sailing checklist
Going over the supplies is an essential part of  the checklist for safe sailing.


General points to consider

In addition to certain tools and spare parts, depending on the boat’s features and the type of journey you will be going on, it is also advisable to have certain things on board in case a problem arises whilst sailing:
  • Filters
  • Lubricating oil
  • Coolant
  • Spark plugs
  • Fuses
  • Bulbs or LEDs
  • Duct tape
  • Screws, nuts and bolts
  • Silicone sealant
  • Inflator and puncture repair kit (if it's an inflatable boat)
  • Items to repair the hull in case of emergency
  • Compass
  • Drawing compass
  • Binoculars
  • Emergency tiller
  • Knife or penknife
  • Diving goggles (in case you need to inspect the part of the boat that is submerged in the water)
  • Neoprene wetsuit
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Warm clothing
For more information on:
8 Tips to Stay Afloat
Boats and Outboards Team
Published on 2021-04-19