Woohoo! Boating season is here. That means it’s time to check your emergency (safety) equipment. There’s nothing worse than being out on the water when an emergency strikes.

Your loved one or friend becomes suddenly-in-command. They can’t find your equipment. Or, worse yet, it is old, falling apart or missing.

According to the Chapman’s Piloting book there are seven items the US Coast Guard inspects on a boat.

My list below has eight. Other items include Life raft, bilge pump, boat hook, alarms, charts, and sails for heavy weather; to name a few.

Flotation Devices (PFD) – life jackets, life slings, throwable ring or square.

Family size and friends may vary from year to year. Before you set sail this year think about who will be sailing with you. Make sure you have enough life jackets for each person.

If you’ll have little ones or pets onboard, make sure you have life jackets for them also. Check that they are out of the wrapper, clean and free from mold. Does each life jacket have a whistle, personal location beacon (PLB), light and active cartridge?

If you’re going off shore, how many life jackets have life rings on them to easily attach a jack stay? Speaking of jack stays, how many do you have and are they in good condition?

Visual Distress Signals (VDS) – Red Signal Flares, strobe light, signal mirror, flashlight, lantern, and red or orange flags.

Fire Extinguishers – If your boat is:

Table of Fire Extinguisher types based on boat size



They need to be accessible and checked that the needle points in the green area on the valve window.




Backfire Flame Control – If you’re using gasoline powered motors, you’ll need an approved backfire flame control device.

Sound Producing Devices – To comply with navigation rules you’ll need a whistle, horn, siren and bell on board.

Navigation Lights – Make sure your lights are all in working order. If you have switched to LED lights be aware there have been safety concerns around them. They pick up interference from other electronic devices.

If you see your TV gets fuzzy or other electronics flickering or hear noise/static on your VHF radio, get an electrician out to check your wiring.

Beware. LED lights don’t burn like incandescent or florescent lights do. You won’t notice when they are burning low.

First Aid Kit – You’ll want to check your first aid kit to make sure it’s complete according to American Red Cross. That nothing has expired. Plus, that it’s easily accessible.

EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) – It is used for search and rescue. Works once it lands in the water. Alerts the Coast Guard and other services there’s an emergency. Plus gives them your location at the time. Check to make sure your EPIRB is registered; with your correct information.

There’s a new product on the market called Lifecell. It holds a lot of your emergency equipment and has an EPIRB on the bottom as well.

Remember to check with your state to learn what their guidelines are. Don’t get caught in a tangled web with the Coast Guard, police and your insurance company.

Be safe!

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