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There are certain things that every boat should have onboard before you even consider connecting the trailer to you car. Sure, most of them are required by law.  And, by the way, if you don’t know the laws of the state into which you are bringing your boat, spend a few minutes on the Internet to find out.) However, you will save yourself a lot of anguish, a lot of fishing time and maybe even a life if you and your boat are properly equipped.

Because once you are out on the water, it is too late to discover that a very important item is missing. This applies whether you are taking that old beat up “John” boat to a farm pond or that brand new Lund to the backwoods of Minnesota.

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Law requires that you have a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) for every passenger onboard. Unfortunately, it is not required that you actually wear the device. To me, PFD’s – otherwise known as flotation vests or life jackets – are like seatbelts: they can’t really help if you don’t wear them. I have seen so many boaters heading out onto the lake at full throttle without a life jacket on and sometimes in very rough water. Do you think it’s not fashionable to wear one? Ask yourself a few questions. “Can I still swim as well as I used to?” “What about the other people in the boat?” “Do their lives matter?” I have one basic, simple rule on my boat: If we are under way, the life jacket is worn. Otherwise, the boat doesn’t leave the dock. Type III Devices are best and are relatively inexpensive. Get enough for everyone… and make sure they get used! You’ll also need a throwable cushion on board that can be used as a life preserver.

Signaling Devices: All boats less than 12 meters in length must carry an efficient sound-producing device that can be heard for one-half mile. Most often these are whistles or horns. It’s probably a good idea to have one of each. An air or electric horn is of no use if it doesn’t work. Purchase a whistle… just in case. They are extremely inexpensive.   And even though most recreational boats are required to be equipped with visual distress signals, I suggest every boat have one. Know where it is located. A simple and inexpensive flare or signal rocket may never get used, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Fire extinguisher:  Most people may not think that this item is very important.  But what if a campfire gets out of hand and you don't have a bucket handy to get water from the lake?  And engine fires are not all that uncommon either.  Besides, U.S. Coast Guard requirements include a working fire extinguisher on most boats, so you might as well make sure that yours is handy.

 

Emergency Lighting/Beacon: Many people are now buying bigger and bigger boats that come equipped with more bells, whistles and gadgets than the average “fully loaded” Cadillac.) But there are still those with older, smaller boats that don’t have all the frills. At the very least, keep a strong flashlight, spotlight that can be connected to a trolling motor battery or flashing beacon… again, just in case.

Ropes: At the very least, make sure that you have sufficient rope to effectively moor or “tie up” your boat. I also suggest that you have about 25 – 30 feet of strong nylon rope stowed on board. It comes in handy for simple things like tent lines (if you are camping) or getting towed (ever run out of gas?) or towing someone else. But it’s also helpful in any number of emergencies.

Cell Phone: It used to be that most small craft operators used to depend solely on marine-band radios for communication with shore. Now that cell phones are something virtually everyone has, it is a good idea to take yours with you on the boat. There are very few places that do not have access to a cell tower and the rage is obviously far greater than a radio. Waterproof lock-boxes are available from most suppliers of marine/boating products. It may seem a bit ostentatious to have a cell phone with you while fishing, but you take it everywhere else. You may as well take advantage of the available technology. Besides, you don’t have to have the thing turned on all the time!

First Aid Kit: Finally – and perhaps most importantly – have a first aid kit on your boat with basic supplies like antiseptic, gauze, tape, band-aids and antihistamines. (You never know how allergic to things like stinging insects you are until you are far, far from home with no doctor close by.) And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to do a little reading on Basic First Aid, or how to remove an embedded fish hook or stop heavy bleeding.

It is extremely important that both you and your boat are prepared to be on the water while away from home, often in a strange, new environment. To make doubly sure that you have the basic requirements, see: http://www.boatsafe.com/.  We all take many things for granted. Make sure that you and your passenger’s safety isn’t one of those. The items on the list above won’t take up much space in your boat. They could make your trip far safer and more enjoyable. Happy boating. I’ll see you … On the Lake.


R. Karl

 

 

 

 

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