Pontoon Boat Safety Equipment: The Essentials Checklist

If you’re not quite sure what to bring on your pontoon to guarantee your and your passengers’ safety, this guide on pontoon boat safety equipment should help you figure things out.

Pontoon boats are some of the safest recreational watercrafts around, but that doesn’t mean you can just drive one without taking any precautions. While weather forecasts and maps can tell us a little bit about what we should expect, mother nature has a way of throwing a curve ball every now and then. And if you find yourself in that situation, you’re going to want to be prepared.

The Importance of Pontoon Boat Safety Equipment

Thankfully, the occurrence of accidents on board of a pontoon are pretty rare, making the vessel one of the safest recreational watercrafts around. But just like you would strap on your seat belt before you drive your car, it’s equally important that you use the appropriate safety equipment on your boat.

Known to further reduce the risk of accidents, injury, and even death, safety equipment for pontoons can potentially save the lives of everyone on board. But aside from that, safety equipment has also been known to offer some other benefits.

On-Board Repairs

Should you run into any performance issues while you’re underway, safety equipment like a toolbox can help you make the necessary patch jobs to bring you safely back to the dock. This can be especially helpful if you find yourself in unfamiliar waters with a boat that’s not functioning as it should.

Reliable Contact

Some safety essentials are necessary so you can contact people on shore should you find yourself in a sticky situation. There have been accounts of people running out of gas on course, or even having their boat capsize, leaving them no choice but to send a distress signal for rescue.

Injury Prevention

Many of the injuries that happen on board of a boat can be prevented by simply preparing for them. Protective equipment and essentials like sunscreen, anti-allergy medication, and even the items in a first aid kit could minimize the risk of injury or prevent existing injuries from getting worse.

Safety Must-Haves on a Pontoon Boat

requirements for boating safety

There are some safety essentials that are more necessary than others. These items must be present on your vessel at all times to guarantee smooth operation and a problem-free excursion.

1. Valid Registration Certificate

Depending on where you live, your local government may require that you have your registration with you at all times. This is a basic legal requirement that may actually save you from a run in with the authorities should the need to see your paperwork arise. Just like you would keep your papers in your car, it’s equally important that you have the same tucked safely in your boat.

2. Personal Flotation Devices

personal floatation device

PFD’s have been known to quite literally save lives and prevent all sorts of injuries, so there’s really no reason not to bring them along. But don’t think that any PFD will do. Consider the ages of your passengers and make sure the PFD’s available are right for their size.

There are also various types of PFD’s available, and your boat should have a variety on-hand in order to address various situations. These include:

Type I Offshore Life Jackets

Come in both foam filled or inflatable designs. There are presently no USCG approved offshore life jackets on the market, but they can be used for all sorts of water conditions.

Type II Near Shore Jackets

Ideal for calm, inland water bodies where it’s easier to access an individual for rescue. These are designed to turn an unconscious wearer face up, but not 100% of the time.

Type III Flotation Aids

The most comfortable to wear while on-board. Inflatable type III jackets offer the highest level of buoyancy and naturally position the wearer in a face up position on the water.

Type IV Throwable Devices

These are not designed for poor swimmers, rough waters, or unconscious users. They offer help by giving individuals something to hold on to while awaiting rescue.

Type V Special Use Devices

These designs are specifically intended for unique activities. They must be used according to what is stated on the label to guarantee safety. For example, a kayaking type V life vest should be used only for kayaking.

3. Fire Extinguisher

marine safe fire extinguisher

Literally anything could happen while you’re on a boat. A marine-grade fire extinguisher like the ones form First Alert should always be at the ready to guarantee safety on-board. Make sure you read how it works and keep an eye on its expiration date so you know when it’s time to make a replacement.

4. Air Horn

boat safety equipment: air horn

An air horn or any other audible warning device draws attention to your boat in case of an emergency. These convenient devices let you call for help and make it easier for others to find you if and when you need assistance or rescue.

Check out the Eco Air Horn from Shoreline Marine.

5. Skier Down Flag

skier down flag

A skier down flag is essentially an orange flag that you display on your boat if one of your passengers goes down into the water for whatever reason. This gives other boats an idea of the situation so they can be extra cautious of their surroundings to avoid injuring the person in the water.

We recommend these flags by Airhead.

6. Toolbox

The standard pontoon tool box should contain wrenches, assorted pliers, screwdrivers, floating knife, floating flashlight, sailor’s multitool, spakr plugs and fuses, and gorilla glue, to name a few. All of these items should come in handy if you need to perform a quick patch job to get safely back to the dock.

7. Flare Guns

flare guns for boats

Boating at night can be particularly dangerous because of the limited visibility. Carrying a flare gun should help rescuers locate your boat in darkness should you find yourself in that kind of situation. Check out flare kits such as Orion Safety flare signalling kit.

8. First Aid Kit

waterproof first aid kit

A first aid kit can patch up minor injuries to minimize pain and stabilize a passenger that’s been hurt as you make your way back to the dock. There are lots of pre-packed first aid kits on the market that give you everything you need so you won’t have to put one together yourself.

Go for a waterproof kit like the SHBC Compact First Aid Kit

9. Anchors

pontoon boat anchor

When your pontoon catches waves, you’re bound to drift, and this can be a problem if you’re out in the water. An anchor keeps your vessel where you want it to be so you can easily swim back and board ship whenever you need to.

Check out our guide on the best pontoon anchors.

Additional Safety Equipment for Your Pontoon

There are some safety items that you probably wouldn’t call must-haves, but would be nice to have around nonetheless. Helping you navigate, face bad weather, and even propel your boat in case of an emergency, these pieces of equipment aren’t the kind you would want to have to ever use, but might save you from perilous conditions should they arise.

  • Maps, charts and a compass
  • Durable, all-weather cell phone
  • Extra batteries
  • Power bank
  • Manual propelling devices like oars
  • Bailing device
  • Floating flash light
  • Pocket knife
  • Multi-tool
  • Weather radio
  • Walkie talkies
  • Extra food and water
  • Extra fuel
  • Sunblock
  • Basic over the counter medications
  • Antihistamine

Routine Maintenance Checklist - Is Your Boat Water-Worthy?

what to bring on a pontoon boat

Before you take your boat to the marina, you need to make sure it’s in proper working order. Because machinery failure has been known to cause accidents and even deaths out on the water, ensuring that your boat is ready to face the waves can help minimize the risk of untoward incidents.

Here’s a routine maintenance checklist you can use to determine whether your watercraft is actually water-worthy:

Prep The Navigation Lights

Navigation lights play a vital role in low-light conditions. Make sure they’re working properly, and ensure that all color-coded lights are positioned where they should be.

Refuel Your Tank

How much gas does your pontoon need to get where you’re going? When you refuel, don’t just get exactly how much you expect to use. Gas up more than you need and keep a full gas caddy or two just in case.

Check Engine Oil and Coolant

Your oils and coolant should be at a specific level to guarantee proper functioning. Check the levels and color to find out whether you need a refill or a total replacement. While you’re at it, you might also want to check your fuel filter which should be new every start of the season.

Inspect Your Spark Plugs

The spark plugs fire the air and fuel in the engine to create combustion and start your boat. With poor spark plugs, your engine might not work to begin with. Check to see if they’re in good condition and if they need to be replaced.

Look Into Your Battery Condition

The battery is responsible for powering up the different electrical instruments on your console and throughout your boat. Make sure you’re keeping track of how many hours your battery has been in service to find out if you need a new one.

Examine The Exterior

Leaks, holes, cracks, corrosion, and rust on the outside could mean that your boat looks similar on the inside. Take your boat to the local service center to inspect the exteriors and patch up any problem areas before heading out to the water.

Safe Sailing

If you ever find yourself asking what to bring on a pontoon boat, think of pontoon boat safety equipment first. All of these different items won’t only ensure smooth sailing, but might even just save your life. Don’t leave the marina if your safety gear isn’t complete, and make sure your boat is in proper working order to enjoy a day of boating without the worry.