The weather is beautiful, and you’re planning to take your friends and family on a boat day trip. While you’re deciding what kind of sandwiches and snacks to pack or which drinks to throw in your cooler, have you thought about your essential survival gear… just in case? While the odds of a mishap are certainly small, the risk of your boat going down always exists and the inconvenience of a boating malfunction is magnified in open water. Stranded in the ocean, your chance of returning to dry land is often decided by what is in your emergency survival kit onboard.
Around the U.S., a commercial boat will have the required supplies to comply with boating safety, and the items needed to facilitate a rescue. The U.S. Coast Guard will likely be there for a search and rescue. However, you cannot assume that a distress call was issued, or that a timely rescue will happen. The point is, never assume. Looking forward to your next day out on the water? Of course you are, and there are ways to make the most of your time by ensuring you are prepared for anything and have checked the items on this list.
Life RaftOn board every boat should be a life raft that is suitable for the capacity of the vessel. A life raft is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment on board that has been designed, tested, and approved to save your life in the event that you must abandon ship.
EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon)These devices are lightweight, compact, easy to use, and mandatory to carry on every ship that instantly summons help and provides your precise location. When activated, EPIRBs use satellites and earth stations to notify Coast Guard and local search and rescue teams of your emergency over two separate frequencies (406MHz and 121.5MHz). The newest models are now equipped with AIS (Automatic Identification System).
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)A PLB broadcasts a satellite distress signal to Coast Guards with a separate signal sent to local search and rescue units to pinpoint your location. Its small size allows several to fit easily into emergency bags or clipped onto lifejackets that improves your chances of being rescued quickly if you become separated in the water. ACR now has a PLB with AIS integration. Not only will this unit transmit to the Coast Guard, but it will also send an AIS signal to any surrounding vessels equipped with an AIS receiver.
Life jackets are designed to keep you from drowning and is one of the most essential items on any trip while out in the ocean. A life jacket can easily save your life if rough weather or high winds send you into the water, that helps maintain your body temperature and keep you warm while awaiting rescue.
The ability to hail other ships is very important when boating. If you find yourself in trouble, you can call for help long before serious rescue is needed. VHF radios allow other boats who find you in their way to discuss the way you plan to pass one another, and for you to hear other boats calling for help.
Every boat must have a way to signal other boats with sound. This can be a bell, whistle, or air horn, but there must be a way to announce your presence in poor visibility. Signaling tools can be brought onto a life raft or with you swimming to help rescuers get a better idea of your location.
First Aid Kits
A well-stocked first aid kit can help make sure you can address incidents from small nicks and cuts to sea sickness. Medical supplies add an extra layer of insurance when you are out on the water that can include a variety of tape, gauze, wipes, anti-bacterial creams, band-aids, and an epinephrine auto-injector.
Abandon Ship BagAbandon ship bags are compact floating bags designed to hold critical items boaters need in an emergency. With plenty of space, pockets and pouches to keep items safe, organized and in one place, boaters can quickly jump into a life raft or even the water with important items needed to speed their rescue.