Keeping Necessary Equipment Aboard Prepares Boaters for Emergencies

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Investing in boating safety gear can get costly, but the price is small in comparison to injuries, lost lives or property damage.  When outfitting a vessel, it’s important to first obtain essential marine safety equipment and then bring along other non-crucial, but nice to have items.  Critical gear includes all the items owners are required to carry by the US Coast Guard (USCG) by craft size.  Not all boats are required to carry certain items, but here is a list of items that craft of all sizes are required to carry.


One Type III USCG-approved jacket for each person on board must be within reach while underway at all times.  Children 13 and under are required to wear a life jacket.


Visual distress signals, or flares, are deployed during emergencies to signal distress to nearby boaters and emergency personnel.  The USCG requires one of the following:  one orange distress flag and electric distress light; or three handheld or floating orange smoke signals and one electric distress light; or three day/night red flares that are handheld, meteor or parachute type.  Expired flares should never be used.


Perhaps nothing is more frightening aboard than a fire.  All boats should carry at least one marine Type USCG B – I fire extinguisher, but boats larger than 16′ are required to have one on board if there is an inboard engine, enclosed compartments where combustible materials are stored, closed living spaces or permanently installed fuel tanks.  Boats 26′ or larger can carry two to three fire extinguishers.  Users should recharge the extinguisher when its gauge falls into the red.


Sound carries over water very efficiently, so being able to make a sufficient sound to attract attention can aid in a speedy rescue.  Bells, whistles and air horns make ideal sound producing devices and meet the USCG requirement.  The boat’s horn is also sufficient, however, it is always a good idea to carry another sound signal that is independent of the vessel.


Although not required by the USCG, it is a good just-in-case item to keep aboard.  Most owners of center-console boats wouldn’t think of bringing a paddle, but it’s better to be prepared than caught off-guard.  The durable, red paddle easily attaches to Shurhold’s telescoping or fixed-length handles and only costs $29.95.  For more information about USCG safety requirements, visit