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A Day on the Lake

Essentials for safety and enjoyment for a day at the lake.

Essentials for safety and enjoyment for a day at the lake.

If you own a lakeside retreat and keep your powerboat right at the dock, ready for use, you probably don’t keep your boat equipped for a daylong outing much the same as someone who trailers to a launch ramp and heads out for the day. After all, if you have your own dock, you can always motor right back and get what you need. CBN-E0515_100 But what if you’re headed out for a full day at the lake and won’t be able to make a pit stop at your home base, whether your place is at the water’s edge or you trailer to the water? What should you pack for a day on the water? Hopefully the items here will never be needed, but better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. Second, listed here are things that may save the day in case of a breakdown. And last but not least, the fun stuff: There are many toys and accessories that make a day at the lake extra enjoyable.

Safety

  • A quality first aid kit is a No. 1 essential for a day at the lake. Marine kits are available from most boating/outdoors stores and online catalog sources.
  • However, here’s a tip: Don’t just pack the standard kit aboard. Depending on the price, many mass-produced “marine” first aid kits might not have the essentials needed. Inspect what’s inside, repack with any missing essentials you feel are necessary, and don’t forget to check and update the kit at least once per season.
  • A marine fire extinguisher is a must. Don’t skimp on this item, as it could literally save your life.
  • A sturdy paddle, just in case, can get you to shore in a pinch.
  • Don’t forget quality sunscreen with a high SPF rating, sunglasses and head protection – especially for young ones and men with less hair!
  • Last but certainly not least – life vests, for everyone on board, in the proper sizes. It’s important that every child aboard is wearing one. As with the first aid kit and fire extinguisher, these should be checked periodically for condition.

Emergency breakdown & repair

  • First, and most important, you’ll need a “jump start” box that is kept charged. A set of jumper cables to go with it is not a bad idea as well. I’ve seen these come in handy countless times after a day on the sandbar socializing and playing tunes.
  • Create a tool kit that’s complete with extras, much like the first aid kit. Start with a generic marine tool kit, and add special items such as: duct tape, electrical tape, spare fuses, small rolls of wire, spare spark plugs, even a spare belt (for inboards and stern drives; don’t forget to learn how to install it, and have the tools needed to do so).
  • Have a spare propeller, complete with installation hardware (nut, thrust washer and related parts).
  • Bring a spare ignition key and (if equipped) a spare kill-switch lanyard. How silly is it to get the boat loaded and launched, only to find you’ve forgotten the key? It happens all the time.
  • Don’t forget a spare quart of oil, whether your boat is stern drive, inboard or outboard, 2- or 4-stroke.
  • If you have an out-of-the-way place to store it, consider a spare gallon of fuel. It may get you to the nearest marina or at least to shore if you run out. But be careful where you store it. A fuel spill could be smelly at best, disastrous at worst.
  • Of course, don’t skimp on tie-up lines and a towrope. These should be sturdy, substantial and inspected for rot and deterioration annually.
  • An anchor is required gear in most states. Having one and using it could keep you from drifting down the lake if your engine’s conked out and you’re waiting for help.
  • A VHF radio will allow you to call for help when cell phones don’t get a signal. A handheld one will work fine if the batteries are charged.

Convenience & fun

Now for the fun. While this is just a starter list, which every boating family could customize, bringing some or all of these items (depending on a boat’s storage capacity and what your group is into) will assuredly keep the day at the lake from becoming boring.
  • A cooler packed with refreshments, snacks and sandwiches is a must-have. Even if your waterway has restaurants and convenience stores handy, having snacks and drinks aboard is a crowd pleaser.
  • If your boat has a stereo, don’t rely on the radio. Oftentimes, the signal can be weak on the water. An iPhone interface with a varied music library will ensure a good entertainment source throughout the day. Headphones or earbuds might be necessary if different tastes mean different music types.
  • A beach anchor (or spike) helps keep your boat tethered to the sandbar for an afternoon of socializing, sunning and swimming fun.
  • Fishing gear (even a simple rod/reel and a small tackle box) can add to a day outing, especially if the weather turns a little cloudy.
  • A bimini top or AnchorShade-type boat umbrella will keep the blazing sun off your passengers, without closing in the cockpit. It’s a great accessory.
  • Waterskis, kneeboards, wakeboards and/or tubes with towropes are typical water toys that help make a day on the lake memorable and fun. If you can fit them aboard, bring them. A few stowed beach towels will help dry you off, too.
  • Don’t forget jackets, a change of dry clothes and a pair of sandals; you might want to tie up and head into town for some sightseeing or a bite to eat, and a bathing suit with bare feet won’t work for that.
John Tiger has been writing about boats and engines since the late 1980s.