Ring in the New Year and Update Your Gear
Make a resolution to check your safety essentials.
The new year isn’t just a time for resolutions; it is also a good time to get organized. Making goals for the year should include taking inventory of your boat contents and checking the safety essentials. It’s time to either purchase missing items, check to see if they are in working order, or replenish them.
According to discoverboating.com, there are five essential safety items for your boat. There are many more to add to the list, but these are the top five.

  1. Life jackets and wearable personal flotation devices (PFDs)
    The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that life jackets could have saved the lives of over 80 percent of boating fatality victims. Life vests must be worn, especially when underway but are also recommended when not below deck. Though it’s not law to wear a vest for those over 13, it is lifesaving. Take an inventory of what life vests, jackets, and other personal flotation devices you have available. Next, assess whether the buoyancy is still viable. As with anything, these will atrophy over time and must be replaced. If you use inflatable vests, make sure the cylinder is full. Make certain that you have enough vests for all passengers when underway and readily available. Note that not all vests will work for everyone. Size and weight restrictions and different requirements should be observed for activities like riding a personal watercraft or children onboard. For a downloadable guide to selecting a life jacket, go to https://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/life-jacket-wear-wearing-your-life-jacket.php
  2. Fire Extinguishers
    All recreational watercrafts are required to have a fire extinguisher, even personal watercraft.
    A new rule on regulations for fire protection for recreational vessels took effect on April 20, 2022. Go to the below link to view the updated rule and how it applies to your vessel.

Per USCG, all fire extinguishers must:
A. Be on board and readily accessible.
B. Be of an approved type.
C. Not be expired or appear to have been previously used; and
D. Be maintained in good and serviceable working conditions.
For a complete guide, go to the U.S. Coast Guard website: https://uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/fire-extinguisher-faq.php

  1. Throwable Flotation Devices
    You wear life jackets, but you need at least one floating device (Type IV) that you can throw a person in distress in the water. The throwable flotation device can be a cushion, a ring buoy, or another approved device. On larger vessels, it is advisable to have several devices despite only one being required. It is also a good idea to have devices with a line attached, making it easier to pull in a person and get them out of the water.
  2. Visual Signaling Devices
    Visual distress signals come in a variety of forms. Different requirements depend on the size of the vessel and where you are, like domestic waters versus international waters. Boats under 16 feet must have flares or nighttime signals. Boats over 16 feet must carry visual signals for daily and night use. Flares that would qualify are orange or white smoke and aerial light flares. Some flares are self-launching, while others require a flare gun to launch. Other nighttime devices include a strobe light. In some cases, a flag may also be used during day time.
  3. Sound signaling devices
    As with visual signals, sound signals are an important safety feature on a boat. For personal watercraft, a simple whistle tied to your lifejacket suffices. For vessels over 39 feet, a bell or horn should be installed. This is especially needed when signaling arrival and departing a marina or in times of limited visibility like fog.

Depending on the type and size of vessel you have, some of the next items may be required, and some may be good recommendations. Also, take this time to check batteries in smoke and CO2 detectors, flashlights, and rechargeable devices.
Whichever applies, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.
o Complete medical kit to treat for cuts, scrapes, and other minor traumas.
o Oars or paddles if the engine quits on the tender boat.
o VHF radio to call for help.
o Anchor to tether the boat while waiting for help.
o Knife to cut a line or something that has wrapped around a propeller.
o Snorkel or diving mask and flippers to inspect under the boat.
o High-powered flashlight.
o Diver Down or skier flag.
o Running lights that are in working order if your boat is equipped with them.
o Enough water for each person on the vessel to stay hydrated.
To get a complete list of boating safety requirements and education, go to the U.S. Coast Guard website https://uscgboating.org or http://www.boatus.org