5 Things Before You Leave The Dock

So you’re getting ready to think about going somewhere. Somewhere farther than just a daysail. Maybe somewhere farther than just an overnight.  Even out of the country.  Don’t leave the following 5 things until the last minute.


Check to make sure your EPIRB Registration is up to date.  If you’re not sure, click here for Register New Beacons.  If you’ve already registered, it will give you an option to view your current EPIRB registration and another option to edit the info.  If you need help, contact NOAA Beacon Registration 301-817-4515.

Weather Forecast says zero change of rain ... oh wait, we got wet, but at least we had a beautiful rainbow!

File a Float Plan.  If you’re unsure of the procedure, click here to download the US Coast Guard PDF Float Plan or here to see a prior Commuter Cruiser post on Float Plans.  The nice thing about downloading the US Coast Guard PDF , filling it out & e-mailing it to your chosen contacts is the third page is a clear sheet of instructions on when to contact the USCG and how to proceed.  It’s nice for the people keeping the Float Plan for you to have those clear concise instructions on when to contact who.

Activate or re-activate your satellite phone.  Keep in mind (as I almost forgot) that if you’re using a sat phone that hasn’t been used in awhile, you’ll need a new SIM card activated by whatever provider you choose.  I let this one go until almost too late and had to pay overnight fees to get the SIM card in time.  BTW, I discovered what appears to be a good provider for Iridium in Roadpost.com – here’s their monthly subscription packages, cancel at any time and beginning at $49/month.  MUCH better deal than we’ve ever found before.  Our package is (January 2016) is $79 for 100 minutes and 100 texts.

If you’re not using a sat phone, be sure to check and doublecheck whatever your preferred communications might be to insure any subscriptions are up to date and any devices involved are functional.  In addition to our sat phone, I already doublechecked the SSB radio to make sure both e-mail and voice communications are working.

Chris Parker forecasting cruisers weather.

Renew or subscribe to any weather information you want.  We’re renewing Chris Parker’s service since we’re unclear of the weather options that will be available.  I used subscribe to the NOAA text forecasts, but I think NOAA/NWS has discontinued that service and I cannot seem to get subscribed (online is said something about discontinued in 2013) – bummer.  Free weather may be a thing of the past unless you have internet access or are close enough to get it via VHF.US-Customs-and-Border-Protection-logo

DTOPS & Local Boater Option Card.  If you’re headed out of the country, these procedures allow you a simple telephone call check in without having to go through the hassle of US customs and immigration.  If you don’t have them, you may want to get them before leaving the US.  If you do have them, make sure they’re renewed and valid for when you’ll be returning.  As I understand it, the Local Boater Option card (immigration) is valid until your passport expires.  When you renew your passport, you’ll need to get a new LBO number.  (Don’t forget to check  passport and USCG documentation expiration dates!)  If you’re not clear on what this point is all about, click here for  “Customs & Clearing into US After Cruising Foreign Waters”

For our downloadable PDF checklist on leaving the dock, click below – these are more things like details of actually leaving the dock & the day before. This is our checklist, but hopefully it will provide a starting point for your checklist.

“Checklist for Leaving the Dock”

These are my top 5 things to check as we’re getting ready to think about leaving…  what’s on your list?  Please leave a comment and share!  Cheers!  Jan


  1. Keith & Nicki, s/v Sionna says:

    The subscription to noaa text forecasts may have been discontinued? But the forecasts themselves, at least, are still available if one has internet access. And there’s the rub, of course!

    • Thanks Keith! Exactly my point — no internet, no weather forecasts. Amazing how many cruisers don’t realize they actually won’t have internet (unless there’s enough $$$ in the cruising kitty to use the iridium limitlessly or some other satellite provider). We didn’t have much luck with our Bullet wifi antenna in the Bahamas – except to extend the range of lousy marina wifi a coupe of times. I could see dozens of signals, but they were all locked. I’m still experimenting, but not coming up with much that’s free. Hence, Chris Parker! Cheers!

  2. very good reminds (me) and an excellent starting point for building a personalized list….thank you.

    • Thanks Scott — cruisers are all different, that’s part of the fun! And that’s the spirit I write my posts, hopefully someone can use the info as a starting point. Cheers! Jan

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