Boating equipment checklist

A family of safe boaters jet along the river in their small vessel

Wherever you operate your boat you will be required to carry certain items of safety equipment. The exact quantity and type of equipment required will depend on how far offshore you travel, and what kind of vessel you are operating.

As skipper, you should make sure that:

1. Everyone knows how to use the safety equipment - have everybody practice putting on lifejackets in good conditions so they are familiar with how to put them on and how they feel.

2. You are familiar with the instructions for use of all equipment - distress beacons, inflatable lifejackets, distress flares and the firefighting equipment. You may not have time for a crash course in an emergency.

As skipper, you must brief everyone on the vessel about where the equipment is kept. It should be stowed where it is easily reached and preferably visible. Keep the following checklist in mind every time you load and stow your equipment aboard.


Vessels operating in unprotected waters (outside the waters contained by any breakwater or in any lake, river or estuary other than the waters of Cambridge Gulf or Lake Argyle) must carry an approved lifejacket for each person on board. Each lifejacket must suit the weight of the person for whom it is intended, be maintained in good condition and kept in an easily accessible place.


You must carry a marine band radio if you go more than five miles from the mainland shore. The choice of radios is up to you, it can be 27 mHz, VHF or HF. When at sea, you must have your radio turned on and tuned to the distress frequency. If your radio is logged on with a shore station such as a Sea Rescue Group, you can stay on the working frequency of the station.


If you are operating in unprotected waters (outside the waters contained by any breakwater or in any lake, river or estuary other than the waters of Cambridge Gulf or Lake Argyle) you must carry an efficient anchor and line. The anchor must be of a type that will hold in all seabed conditions and with enough line to suit the depths in which you usually operate.


Bailers are used for vessels under 7 metres in length. Depending on the size of the vessel, a strong bucket with 2 metres of rope attached makes an excellent addition to your gear list. As a safety item, it is useful both for bailing water out and fighting fires.

Bilge pumps

Bilge pumps are required for boats 7 metres and over. They may be manual, or power operated and must be capable of pumping 4 kilolitres per hour. If you fit an electric bilge pump with an automatic switch it must have an indicator to show when the pump is working. Check its operation regularly and keep it well maintained. The bilge pump should be protected by a strainer to prevent choking of the pump suction. Clean bilges reduce the possibility of blocked pumps.

Distress flares

Flares are best used when you believe there is chance of it being seen. The method used to fire flares varies widely between flare types and manufacturers. The firing instructions are always printed on the flare, and you should be familiar with your flare’s methods. Hand-held red flares especially, burn very hot and may spill glowing embers. Hold it downwind so that embers don't spill into the vessel and tilt it while in your hand to avoid being burnt.

Fire extinguishers

If your vessel is fitted with an inboard engine (personal water craft are exempt) or with cooking, heating or cooling systems that use flames, you must carry an approved fire extinguisher. You make your own choice of extinguisher (provided it is made to Australian Standards) from foam, dry chemical, carbon dioxide or vaporising liquid.

All safety equipment must be maintained in very good condition and be accessible at all times.

Safe boating!

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