Owning a boat is all about having fun and a place to relax. But even on a boat, problems can occur, whether it’s someone falling overboard or an onboard fire. Even small problems can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not prepared.
To prevent that from happening, you should always have appropriate safety gear on your boat. Make a safety gear checklist and review it regularly. Some safety gear is required by law depending on your state, the size of your boat, body of water you boat on and other factors. Be sure to check what is required by the Coast Guard and local laws.
First, make sure you have Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) on your boat. According to the Coast Guard, 80 percent of boating fatalities could be prevented by people wearing PFDs. Make sure everyone onboard has a properly-fitting PFD, especially children. You should also have throwable flotation devices immediately available.
Next, any boat with gas or diesel needs a fire extinguisher that is readily available. Routinely check that it hasn’t passed its expiration date and that the indicator needle is still in the green area. You also need both sound and visual signaling devices, such as flares, air horns and whistles. Again, check Coast Guard and local regulations.
While some safety gear isn’t required, it’s still smart to have it on your boat. Among these is a first aid kit. If you have an accident on the water, you need to be able to aid yourself or a passenger fast. You also should have a bailer, in case of a leak, and a tow line.
A decent tool kit will come in handy if you have any mechanical problems, and it’s smart to keep a supply of spare parts, including fuses, onboard. You should have a waterproof flashlight (preferably a couple), and you should have communication devices such as a VHF radio and a cell phone. And, if you do get stuck on the water for a while, you’ll want to have extra food and drinking water available.