The stuff that matters: Holiday boating safety gift ideas
Posted by PA1 Bill Colclough, Friday, December 16, 2016
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough
Stumped as to what to give your family or friends who like to boat or fish or this holiday? Gift them with a safe return home while on Alaska’s waterways. The gift of safety saves more than money.
“The personal protective equipment is critical here in Alaska; be prepared, as winter changes so fast,” said Michael Folkerts, Recreational Boating Safety Specialist for the 17th Coast Guard District. “Without thermal protection, people will not survive. People should take more precaution with winter boating.”
Consider these gifts and stocking stuffers:
Life jacket – Federal law requires boaters have a personal floatation device for each passenger, and children aged 13 years and younger are required to wear a life jacket. In an emergency, there is no time to put on a life jacket, so wearing one at all times is crucial. Adult-sized life jackets will not work for children. Special life jackets are available. To work correctly, a life jacket must be worn, fit snugly and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through. Life jackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once each year. Waterlogged, faded or leaky jackets should be discarded. Life jackets must be properly stowed. A life jacket, especially a snug-fitting flotation coat or deck-suit style, can help you survive in cold water.
Throwable device – These Type IV ring buoys are intended for use on small boats in calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic where help is always nearby. They may also be used with a lanyard, “man-overboard” pole, locator light or smoke signal. Ring buoys can be thrown to someone within 40 feet. They can be stored as a seat cushion, or some types can be placed in a bracket mounted above deck, where they are immediately available.
Marine-band radio – Have a VHF-FM marine-band radio onboard your vessel. If you are in distress, you can reach the Coast Guard on channel 16, the distress channel. The Coast Guard, other rescue agencies and other boaters monitor channel 16 24/7, which increases the number of people who can respond. Though cell phones are better than no means of communication, they tend to have gaps in coverage while on the water and limited battery life.
Anti-exposure coveralls – Dress for the weather and protect yourself against the dangers of cold water immersion. Other similar dry suits are recommended for wear in water temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fire extinguisher – The Coast Guard recommends that extinguishers be mounted in a readily accessible location on all vessels. Consider locations where the extinguisher can be reached easily. For example, at or near the steering station or in the galley or engine room, but away from locations where a fire may likely start.
Emergency position-indicating radio beacon – An EPIRB is an economical safety device that automatically transmits an emergency signal when it is placed or floating in the upright position. The signal allows the Coast Guard and other rescue agencies to pinpoint the beacon’s exact location. Now small enough to be carried in your pocket, the device is designed to send an accurate location as well as identifying information to rescue authorities immediately upon activation. The Coast Guard encourages mariners register their EPIRB at http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/beacon.html.
Signaling and sound-producing devices – All boaters should be able to signal for help. Boaters must have U.S. Coast Guard-approved day and night signals for vessels when required signaling devices are recommended while operating on the water. Signaling devices consist of both pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic, such as pyrotechnic red flares and orange smoke used for night and day distress signaling, respectively. Non-pyrotechnic devices include orange distress flags (day only) and electric distress signals (night only). Navigation rules require sound signals be made under certain circumstances. All boaters should have items such as horns, whistles and bells onboard their vessel.
First aid kit – This is a must-have item for cuts, abrasions and minor injuries if anyone gets hurt while boating.
Nautical charts – Know where you are and where you are going with an updated and corrected chart. In case the GPS fails, charts of local areas can provide safe navigation in unfamiliar areas.
Boating safety education – This gift is free! The Coast Guard Auxiliary provides instruction to boaters of all levels. To find a course near you, check out http://www.cgaux.org/boatinged/.
One last gift pack your loved ones will appreciate is a go-bag stocked with some cold weather gloves, shovel, thermal blanket, fire starter, body warmers and hand warmers. Regardless of their experience as boaters or outdoors enthusiasts, these items should help ensure safer boating. Give your loved ones the stuff that matters this holiday season. For more information on boating safety, visit http://www.uscgboating.org/.