Sunny days spent boating on the water is a favorite activity for those fortunate enough to live on a lake or ocean. Before setting out, there are some essential safety items that every vessel should have whether it’s a dinghy or a yacht.
Alternative Power Source
Vessels of every size should be equipped with the means to use oars, a sail or a motor. An inflatable life raft is also a good idea if traveling far from shore – and it should be stocked with rations, a light, and positioning beacon.
Fire Extinguishers, CO/Smoke Detectors
Fire is one of the most feared occurrences on a vessel. A smoke and/or CO detector is an essential early warning system that will save lives and the benefits of multiple fire extinguishers is obvious.
First Aid Kit
A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for treating everything from cuts and bruises to fevers and non-life threatening wounds.
Everyone on the boat should have a life jacket appropriate to their size and weight, and the type and temperature of the water. Include dye packets on the jackets for daytime use and lights in the event of a nighttime rescue. Don’t forget to include at least a flotational device.
Today’s electronic navigational units are convenient but don’t underestimate the importance of a paper copy as a backup. A waterproof chart and portable compass will allow boaters to calculate the distance to the nearest land and route to safety.
Flares, whistles and air horns/bells are critical if boaters need to be rescued in poor visibility conditions or if the boat is stopped in a shipping lane. Vessels should also be equipped with an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
Open water can be cold and if boaters have to ditch in the open water, hypothermia can quickly set in. A survival suit provides a source of warmth. If boaters have to abandon ship in a life raft, try to take a couple of towels for warmth, and matches or a fire starter when reaching shore.
A cell phone is no substitute for a marine radio and won’t receive a signal far from shore. A VHF radio is essential for monitoring water traffic, avoiding potentially dangerous situations, and calling for assistance. Keep a battery-operated radio as a backup communication device and tuned to Channels 9 and 16.
A couple of gallon jugs of potable water have a myriad of uses when boaters become stranded. The water prevents dehydration, cleans wounds, can be used in the motor’s cooling system, and even to bail water.
A waterproof bag can be used to keep cell phones, matches, fire starters and other necessities dry.
Accidents and emergencies happen despite the best-laid plans. Survival depends on forethought and being prepared with the right equipment.
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