There’s nothing more adrenaline-pumping than taking your own boat offshore, and slamming serious pelagic predators. But it takes some heavy-duty planning. If you want to head for the horizon and chase after big game in your own boat, use this pre-offshore checklist to make sure you’re well prepared for the adventure.
- The day before every offshore trip, run a full systems check. From the bow lights to the powerplant, give your boat a once-over. Dozens of miles from land is NOT the place to discover a bilge pump popped a breaker, or the VHF isn’t transmitting.
- Run a separate check on all your safety gear. Note: if you’re running out into the ocean there’s no excuse for not having a distress signal, be it a satellite messenger (like the SPOT or DeLorme Inreach) or an EPIRB. Either way, test them regularly.
- Run an inventory check on your fishing gear, too. Believe me, nothing is worse than cruising for two hours to arrive at the fishing grounds, and discover your spool of flourocarbon only has enough line left on it for one or two leaders. Been there, done that. Also check your bait. Again, it’s tragic to do all that running and then discover you’re handicapped. Maybe the tackle shop sold you a box of freezer-burned cigar minnow, or the ballyhoo are all mushy. Either way, it can ruin the whole trip.
- Provision the boat with extra water in sealed containers. Food is good, of course, but if you encounter mechanical difficulties offshore and can’t get home, a supply of water is far more important. You can go for days without food, but when it comes to water…
- File a float plan with a trusted friend or relative. It should have a specific time that, if you don’t check in, the authorities get notified.
- Replace or charge the batteries in anything that runs on batteries. Flashlights, your satellite messenger, handheld back-up VHFs, whatever. If it needs juice, don’t play around – make sure it has plenty.
- Finally, check in with your crew and make sure they know what to bring. Things like sunglasses and sunscreen can be imperative equipment on the ocean, and people who don’t regularly head offshore may not realize it.
You’re not sure if your boat can handle offshore waters? If you have any doubt, it’s probably best not to try it. That said, read Is Your Boat Big Enough for Offshore, to gain some additional insight.