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Boat Checking


(Published January 2022, replacing January 2015)


All craft used by The Scout Association must be checked to ensure it's fit for purpose and suitable for the activity on each occasion it's used. It's the responsibility of the permit holder or activity leader to make sure craft and associated equipment are properly checked and maintained.

Groups, Districts and centres may have their own systems for equipment checking, however the responsibility remains with the permit holder or activity leader to check the craft before use.

Identification and monitoring

All boats operated owned or operated by members on behalf of The Scout Association must have a unique identifier. This could be in the form of a sticker (traditional boat stickers are available from scout store), clearly marked number, or simply be part of a small fleet made up of different coloured boats. Some craft such as dinghies already have unique numbers which could be used for this purpose. The unique identifier will enable groups to monitor the checking, maintenance and use of each boat. This will also assist with the long-term planning for renewal and the budget implications associated with such renewals.

An example boat log sheet is available.

Checking equipment

It is important that all boats are checked and repaired as necessary. It is the responsibility of the permit holder or activity leader to ensure all equipment is suitable for use but the process may also include others. Frequency of checking will vary dependent on the equipment and its use.

In a group with only a few boats, the checking may take place prior to each activity being undertaken, whereas in a centre a monthly detailed check may be undertaken and supported by visual checks prior to each use.

This should be done in conjunction with following the manufacturer’s guidance for storage and maintenance.

Checks can be varied and should be appropriate to the type of craft and its use, ensuring that the craft is fit for purpose. Common methods include:

  • Visual check – are there any obvious visual signs of damage, discolouration, cracks etc. Is everything present and in good working order.
  • Internal and external inspection – this would check for all elements of the craft being secured to ensure that exit from the craft was not hindered. Also checking the surfaces to ensure that they are free from splinters, cracks and other damage.
  • Water leak testing – this is to establish if there are any leaks and is done through simply pouring a quantity (at least 4 litres) of water into the boat and seeing if any water leaks out when the boat is placed on its sides and ends.
  • Absorption test – this will be useful where boats are fitted with Poured Expanded Polystyrene. Pour at least 4 litres of water into the boat and then mark the water level when the boat is lying flat on its base. Then stand the boat on its ends (10 min each) before returning to its base. If when it returns to its base the water level is lower water has been absorbed.
  • Swamp / saturation test – This is only suitable for non-motorised small craft. This is done by placing the boat in the water and then filling the whole boat with water, at this point the boat should still float at the surface of the water.

Associated equipment would include paddles, spray decks, buoyancy aids, Life jackets, helmets, oars, anchors, engines, air horns, repair kit, fire extinguishers, etc., and should be made available for inspection. They should be in date where appropriate and inspected in accordance with manufacturers recommendations.

Life jackets and buoyancy air bags will need to be inflated at least half an hour before examination.

If there is any doubt, the advice of the Assistant County Commissioner (Water Activities), County or District Water Activity Adviser or relevant water activity assessors should be sought.

Storage of equipment

It's good practice to store equipment in a cool environment and out of direct sunlight, this will help to prolong the life of the product. If using the product in salt water it will help to rinse the equipment after use and to ensure that all equipment is dried in a suitable manner. Where manufacturer’s guidance exists this should be followed.

Damaged equipment

If anything is damaged or not fit for use then it should be clearly marked and not used on this occasion. Once a repair is done then the equipment must be checked again, this may require getting someone else to check or advise before putting the item back into use.

Who can help and advise me?

There are lots of people who can help with maintaining and repairing equipment, these may be available within your group or may come from elsewhere. Make sure you check with someone who has the skills if you don’t yourself before proceeding with repairs.

Rules relating to boat checking

Rule 9.13.5 Boats

Additional information

Example boat log