Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you need it. But if you’re on the water when you need something – and you don’t have it – you might be in for a long, miserable day.

HERE ARE SOME ESSENTIAL ITEMS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE ONBOARD YOUR BOAT FOR WHEN SOMETHING BREAKS OR THINGS GO WRONG.

  • Life jackets.  This is a no-brainer. Make sure you have enough PFDs for everyone onboard. Also, throwable flotation devices are required on any vessel over 16 feet.
  • Communication devices. Never leave land without a VHF radio and a cell phone.
  • Tool box. You should have an onboard tool box stocked with basic tools including a hammer, screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, duct tape and scissors or shears.
  • Always carry waterproof flashlights and/or headlamps, preferably several.
  • Spare batteries. Make sure you have plenty and that you have different sizes available for various purposes.
  • Spare parts. Carry equipment spares onboard such as light bulbs, fuses, a fuel filter, water pump and more.
  • Sound-producing device. Your boat should have a horn that can produce a four-second blast that can be heard a half-mile away.
  • Distress signals. Carry flares and day signals onboard and make sure they are easily accessible.
  • First aid kit. Read what to keep in your onboard first aid kit here.
  • Fire extinguisher. You should have at least one fire extinguisher onboard (preferably more), and more sure it is easily accessible.
  • Tow line. Have a sturdy line available to make it easy to get a tow.
  • Jumper cables. It’s smart to have a set of cables available for when your battery dies.
  • A bailer. If you get a leak, even a small one, you’ll want something onboard that you can bail water with.
  • Spare food and water. If you get stuck on the water for a while, you’ll want access to food and drinking water. Carry a small stash onboard for emergencies.