No boater likes to think about it, but it does happen: Your boat can break down.

It can decide not to start while it’s still at the dock, but there’s a chance it might also stop working when you’re in the middle of enjoying a nice day on the water . . . far from shore.

While having your boat break down out on the water is something that hopefully never happens to you, it’s always best to prepare ahead of time, just in case it does. That way, you’ll be able to easily manage the situation. Here are a few tips on how to do that.

  • Carry Extra Food and Water Onboard – If you do get stranded on the water, hopefully it won’t be for too long. But you also might be stuck for a while. Prepare for the worst-case scenario by always carrying plenty of extra food and water onboard.
  • Bring Extra Clothes – You might not think you need a change of clothes for a warm, sunny day spent swimming offshore. But, if your boat breaks down and you’re stuck for some time, you’ll want a change of clothes. Include some warm clothes in case the temperature dips.
  • Have Communication – If you can’t get your boat running again, you’ll need to call for help. Make sure you have dependable communication onboard. Always have a VHF radio with you. You should also have flares onboard.
  • Tell Someone Your Plans – Before you leave, tell a friend or family member on land about your day’s plans. You can also file a float plan with your marina or tow provider. That way, if you do get stuck and are unable to communicate with the shore, someone will know to look for you or alert authorities.
  • Weigh the Dangers – Once your boat breaks down, stop and consider your situation, prioritizing any potential dangers. Are you in immediate danger, such as in the middle of heavy boat traffic or approaching rocks? If so, begin by taking appropriate action, such as signaling to other vessels, or grabbing a paddle and steering away from hazards. Drop anchor as soon as possible to fix your location.
  • Carry Tools – After making sure you are safe, try to diagnose your boat’s problem. Always carry tools with you onboard so that if it’s a simple fix, you can do it yourself and be on your way in no time. Along with your tools, make sure you also carry a tow rope onboard, so you can have another boat tow you.
  • Have a Tow Company – Even if you can find another recreational boater to tow you, a tow can be taxing on regular vessels. It’s best to have a tow company that can come get you if you get stuck. Make sure you understand the terms of your agreement with them and under what conditions they will cover you.