1. Have enough life jackets on board, including the kids (and non-swimming pets). They should be in good condition and easy to reach in an emergency.
2. Review and inventory all of your safety gear. Check your mandated and other safety gear (fire extinguishers, GPS, charts, etc.) Also, make sure everyone on the boat knows where everything is and can access it quickly.
3. Make sure your anchor is in good condition. Note: A boat never stops moving, even in an emergency, like a car does. So before you run your boat into the ground and prevent drifting, check your anchor.
4. Get a VHF radio. Your cell won't reach other boaters, anglers or coast guard - the closest potential rescuers. You can purchase a radio for about $100. Just remember, to keep the battery charged.
5. Get your safety seal. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons offer free vessel safety checks to help identify potential safety issues. Check it out at safetyseal.net to find one near you or take the "virtual" vessel check.
6. Make a plan. Before you leave home and set your sails, tell someone (who will remain on land) where you are going and the time you expect to be home. If you fail to contact them by a certain time, they can call for help.
Now you can hit the water running... floating! Happy boating!