A basic boat safety kit is crucial to feeling safe and enjoying yourself on the water during the summer months. With boating season here, it makes sense to equip yourself to handle emergencies now, rather than waiting for disaster to strike. Boat safety doesn’t have to get in the way of a good time, and it’s always better to be prepared than to regret leaving an important piece of gear at home.
Here are five important items that should be in any boat safety kit:
1. First Aid Kit
Above all else, you should always make sure to stow a first aid kit on your boat. Out on the water, there’s typically no way to quickly reach emergency services should an accident occur, whether it’s accidentally getting stuck with a sharp fish hook or burning yourself on a hot outboard motor. A first aid kit that’s loaded with bandages, painkillers, cotton gauze, scissors and antiseptic wipes is a must-have.
2. Personal Flotation Devices
Legally speaking, you simply cannot leave the dock without a life jacket on board for every person sitting in your boat. Some bodies of water even require every water skier to wear a personal flotation device at all times. Whether the law or common sense govern, life jackets are an absolute must for your boat safety kit — especially when carrying children as passengers. Always make sure that each life jacket is properly sized and double-check that kids have adjusted their straps to prevent the jacket from slipping off of them.
3. Hand-Bailers and Bilge Pumps
A hand-bailer is a very simple tool, but you’ll have a hard time improvising if you’re caught empty-handed in a situation that requires one. Any reasonably-sized container can serve as a hand-bailer and keep too much water from accumulating inside your boat. You may want to tether yours to a seat to make sure it doesn’t get accidentally chucked overboard. Alternately, you can look into investing in a hand-operated bilge pump. This option will quickly evacuate any accumulated water and is a good investment for frequent boaters.
4. VHF Radio
If you intend to go boating in an area that’s controlled by the Coast Guard or other authorities, you’ll want to keep a VHF radio on board as part of your boat safety kit. A VHF radio will allow you to contact rescuers in the event of an emergency situation and will also enable authorities to contact you to provide important weather-related information should a storm approach.
A water-proof flashlight is the last item recommended for your basic boat safety kit. If you’re boating at night, it goes without saying that a flashlight powerful enough to help you tie-up at the dock or see a map is important. A flashlight is also useful for signaling your location to other boaters. In some parts of the country, you may be required to mount navigation lights on your personal watercraft if you happen to be out in the dark. Always check local laws before getting underway.
Boat safety is a fundamental part of enjoying your summer out on the water, and covering the basics won’t cost you much time or effort. It will, however, ensure that you and your passengers remain prepared in the event of an emergency offshore.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.