Whether you’re piloting a 60-foot high-end yacht on a multi-day voyage or paddling a canoe across the bay, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) requires that every boat—regardless of size or type—has essential safety equipment aboard. Luckily, these items aren’t overly expensive or hard to find and, more importantly, they could save your life in the event of an emergency. Check to make sure your vessel has all of these items, or you could be risking both stiff fines as well as your life.
- Personal Flotation Devices: The USCG requires you provide a personal flotation device for every person aboard. Although federal law doesn’t require the device to be worn at all times the boat is underway, certain states regulate children below a certain age have to do so. Maryland law states that all children under the age of 13 must wear a USCG approved personal flotation device while underway on a recreational vessel under 21 feet in length on Maryland waters. The life jacket must be the proper size for the child and must be in good and serviceable condition. Additionally, in states where no children’s life jacket law is in place, a USCG interim rule requires children under 13 on moving boats to wear a USCG approved life jacket that fits. Furthermore, the USCG mandates that if your boat is over 16 feet in length, a throw-able personal flotation device (ex. a life ring) needs to be available at all times.
- Whistle/Horn: The USCG also requires that every boat carries a noise-generating device to both warn other boats in the vicinity of your presence and to use as a distress signal in case of emergency. For vessels longer than 39.4 feet, there must be both a bell measuring at least 7.87 inches in diameter and a whistle that can be heard at a distance of ½ a nautical mile on-board.
- Visual Distress Signals: If you plan on boating at night, you must carry visual distress signals that may include emergency flares, flags, flashlights, water dye markers and smoke signals depending on your vessel’s size and the area in which you are planning to set sail.
- Fire Extinguisher: Motored boats 26 feet and over, or less than 26 feet if there are permanent fuel tanks installed, must carry a USCG-approved marine-type fire extinguisher—although it’s a good idea to have one where you can get to it quickly and easily regardless of how big your boat is.
In addition to the USCG-required items, it’s a good idea to consider the following list of recommended items to ensure your safety while enjoying the water:
- Blanket/Dry Clothes: You don’t have to be in the water to be at risk of hypothermia—and being stuck in wet clothes or exposed to the elements will only expedite the loss of body heat. Always keep a change of clothes and blankets in waterproof containers.
- Oars: In case you have engine problems, you should have a pair of oars in order to remain mobile.
- First-Aid Kit: Injuries happen. Make sure you have an adequately stocked first-aid kit and know how to use all the items properly.
- File Plans: Even if you’re just planning a short trip, it’s always a good idea to file your route plans with a trustworthy 3rd party in case you experience trouble so any potential rescue efforts will have a starting point to begin their search efforts.
- Tool Kit: Make sure your on-board tool kit has everything you need for any repairs you may have to make.
- Bilge Pump: In case you start taking on water, you’ll want a bilge pump to prevent accumulation until you can repair the source of the leak.
- Non-Perishable Food: If an emergency situation turns your ‘short trip’ into an extended ordeal, make sure you have adequate food reserves to keep your energy up.
- Chart & Compass: Electrical navigation systems inevitably fail—have these items aboard and know how to use them if you have to find your own way to shore.
For all your equipment needs, be sure to check out The Ship Store at Port Annapolis that combines a wide selection of boating essentials and provisions with a personable, experienced staff always at the ready to ensure you find exactly what you need. For personalized attention to your specific marine supply requirements, contact The Ship Store today at (410) 286-1215.