Boating Safely

Preparedness is the captain’s primary virtue. Whether you and your crew are taking a 4-hour cruise, Gilligan’s Island puns aside, or mapping uncharted waters, it’s essential to have a safety kit aboard. Magellan didn’t leave Portugal before having all the needed provisions.

Legally, a boat is required to possess certain safety items. The US Coast Guard requires all boats under 16 feet in length to carry these items:

Fire extinguisher
Visual Distress Signals
Sound-producing device
Backfire flame control
Ventilation system
Boat lighting equipment

Additionally, you must sail with one Coast Guard approved (Type I, II or III Personal Flotation Device) for each crew member. Aside from these items, a modified First-Aid Kit is necessary to keep a happy and safe crew.

A basic First-Aid Kit, store bought from a pharmacy, with a few additions makes for a safe boat. Usually, First-Aid Kits come with everything needed to clean and protect cuts and bruises, however, life atop the water presents unique dangers: Jelly-Fish sting and time adrift without water may be deadly.

Jelly-Fish can be your arch-nemesis in many areas. Keeping vinegar along with the First-Aid Kit remedies these painful stings. The University of Hawaii suggests submerging the affected area in 113-degree water, after applying vinegar.

A desalination kit will keep you and your crew from reciting these line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

“Water, water everywhere
Nor a drop to drink”

Dehydration atop the ocean is a real, yet ironic, threat.

Reflective marine tape comes in handy atop the water. The tape may be used to mark off onboard equipment. Both the tape and desalination kit can be bought affordably from 3M, or online.
All the items need to be stored in a watertight orange container – dayglow orange is visible in low light. The container can be purchased from any marina.

A distress flag may save you from a watery abyss. Flags have been used since mariners first set out to cross the ocean, the distress flag is universally recognized as a call for help.
Every boater looks forward to their next adventure atop the ocean’s waves, however, the voyage must be one of adventure and safety. It’s important to store all emergency related articles, such as a fire extinguisher, in an easy to access location.

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