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Safety Equipment for Summer Boating

David Koot

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With summer just around the corner, it seemed like a good idea to post some ideas about safety equipment for boating. This is an area I was careless about at one time. I used to go canoeing and kayaking in the ocean without a life jacket. Not now. Anyway, following is a list of equipment which may never be needed, but on the other hand you don't want to be without--because it just may be needed:

1) Handheld marine band radio that is submersible and floats, attached to your belt etc with a lanyard;

2) GPS receiver/display that is submersible and floats, attached to you with a lanyard;

3) A rigging knife, secured to belt with lanyard, plus a spare;

4) An oversize Danforth, Fortress or similar primary anchor;

5) 200 ft. of 3/4 inch braided nylon anchor rode, and 10 - 15 ft. of galvanized anchor chain;

6) An oversized cleat attached to the foredeck to secure the anchor rode;

7) A standard size secondary anchor to drop over the stern (two anchors ARE needed!! with 200 ft. of 5/8-inch rode and galvanized chain;

8) An emergency anchor, very heavy Danforth, with 3/4 inch rode and chain;

9) A flare pistol with six 12 gauge rounds;

10) A backup flare launcher with six rounds;

11) Four handheld flares;

12) An immersion suit for each person aboard;

13) Life jacket for each person, plus a few spares. Do NOT use inflatable life jackets. Unreliable, and they can lose their buoyancy.

14) A signal mirror;

15) A compressed-gas boathorn plus refill canister;

16) A week's supply of fresh water, in various containers;

17) An inflatable life raft that is 10 ft. long, with heavy floor for stability and rigidity. Hypalon or equivalent, NOT vinyl!!! Two behind main vessel with 3/4-inch nylon line;

18) Set of oars for liferaft, plus a spare set;

19) Provisions for each person for one week;

20) A six-ft. diameter sea anchor, plus a spare, plus 200 ft. of 3/4-inch braided nylon line, plus a spare line.

21) A 20,000 candlepower floodlight, battery powered, submersible and floats;

22) Up-to-date charts;

23) A good first-aid kit;

24) Spare kicker motor;

25) Emergency oars for vessel: each oar 1/2 length of boat. For a 30 ft. craft, 15 ft. oars are needed, plus a spare, with suitable oarlocks installed;

26) 10x50 binoculars, good quality;

27) Two 15-ft. boat hooks;

28) A horseshoe-shaped life preserver, mounted on the stern rail;

29) A 10 gpm manual bilge pump;

30) A backup 10 gpm bilge pump;

31) A handheld bilge pump;

34) Buckets for bailing;

35) Patch kit for life raft;

36) Handheld bilge pump for life raft;

37) Air pump for life raft, secured in raft.

I will start with that list. If anyone thinks of something to add, please do.


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I'd sure hate to be swimming while carrying all that stuff....

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.


George Bernard Shaw


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I should add, as a general precaution, that all hatches should be dogged down while underway. If the vessel has a cabin, the companionway boards should be kept in place above the level of the cockpit. All of the listed safety equipment and precautions may seem unnecessary. However, weather conditions may unexpectedly and momentarily change for the worse. When you are gripping the tiller with one hand, and can't let go, and your other arm is wrapped around the boom to keep from being thrown out of the boat--and I have been in that situation--then it is TOO LATE to even put on a life jacket. One other precaution: DON'T GO OUT THERE ALONE!


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Ahhh, I need to add a couple of very important items of equipment--an illuminated compass, bulkhead or pedestal-mounted, and a handheld bearing compass. This latter is very helpful indeed. Also, spare batteries for GPS, radio, floodlight, etc. And, of course, sunblock/sunscreen--AND headgear with a brim, (don't need rednecks here) and sunglasses.

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Hmmm, I keep remembering things that are important--and obvious. A boat should always have a fire extinguisher aboard, as well as a spare, fully charged. I think that the total of all the items mentioned so far, would comprise a decent list of safety equipment. Having said that, sometimes one has to make do. A couple of years ago, I had to devise a most unusual method of bringing a boat up the Bay. It was an aft-cabin sailboat, with an outboard bracket on the transom, and no masts stepped--hence it was motored all the way. Because of the center cockpit design, there was no way to reach the controls of the motor. Therefore, I had to attach nylon twine to the accelerator lever on the motor, run it along the deck, and belay it fully open. Driving up the Bay, I had to cross the Mouth--the Golden Gate--at full throttle, in a steep chop. At times, I had to turn into the seas because of the severity of the chop, and when I did, the hull would pound on the waves. Prior to launching, I had to patch a hole in the fiberglass hull, which I could only reach from the outside, so a half-job. I was very concerned that the patch would give way in the pounding the hull was taking, but it held. It was a very lively ride up the Bay. So, at times one must make do, but it is better to have the proper equipment.



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