By: Advocate Brokerage
Whenever venturing out onto the water, safety should be your highest priority! The following tips aim to help you prepare for any situation on the high seas. And your Advocate Broker will help you insure your watercraft for any eventuality through quality companies such as the Chubb Group.
Personal Flotation Device
Recreational boats are required by law to have a life jacket for every person on board. The laws on children are strict — anyone under 13 must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket unless they are within an enclosed cabin. Type 1 life jackets are usually good choices.
Visual Distress Signals (VDS)
SOS signals can come in many shapes and forms — be on the look out for parachutes, meteor flares, smoke or flags. You must have visual signals on your boat. Be aware that most pyrotechnic distress signals are unreliable after 48 months from the date they are manufactured, so be sure to replace any expired signals.
First aid skills are handy in every situation, and on the water it is particularly important that you stay current on yours. Take a U.S. Coast Guard or American Red Cross first aid/CPR course and keep your kit fully stocked to be prepared for any emergency.
Compass and Electronics
For all of us in the tech age, we’ve learned to rely on our GPS. But the most important navigation equipment you have on board is your chart and compass. When visibility is bad or you’re navigating in the dark, your best chance of keeping a steady course is your compass — and there’s no substitute for basic chart plotting.
Anchors, Lines, and Fenders
Always make sure your vessel has the appropriate anchor system. Having a firm grasp of which anchors to use when is important—educate yourself with boating reference books such as Chapman Piloting and Seamanship.
Be sure not only to have fire extinguishers on hand, but also know how to use them. Become familiar with the types and operations of your extinguishers. There should be one per cabin and additional extinguishers in common areas. During a fire it’s important to turn off fuel sources that could fan the flames, and be ready to abandon ship if need be.
Have a bag ready and accessible that’s filled with any items you’ll need in the event you have to abandon ship.
If it is at all possible for your boat to carry a life raft, it should. Staying safe has become more affordable — in recent years the cost of coastal life rafts has fallen significantly, giving boaters little excuse but to carry one on board. Survival suit — specially made suits designed to protect you from hypothermia — are another option to keep in mind.
Drills and Safety Practices
Follow the Boy Scouts motto: Be prepared! Safety drills are immensely important. Make sure that you practice man overboard, fire and abandon ship drills in addition to creating a pre-voyage checklist to make sure you have what you need to embark.
Float plans outline where you are going, where you’re stopping, and your estimated time of arrival. It is essential to leave a float plan with a responsible individual — if anything happens, they will know where to find you!
Federal, State, and Local Requirements
These are an excellent guideline when considering your needs, but items you’ll also want to keep handy are an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRD), first-aid kit, life raft and navigational charts. Liability issues can arise if you aren’t fully aware of what additional items you’ll need while on board to protect yourself and others.