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    Boating Safety Equipment

    Boating Safety Equipment

    Photo By Pamela Doty | By R.J. Garren read more read more



    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    When I was a park ranger on an inland lake, my co-workers and I used to do courtesy boat inspections at boat ramps to help boaters make sure they had all of the required and recommended safety equipment on their vessels. We would first check for proper display of numbers and state boating registration/documentation, according to our state’s requirements. Then we would make sure things were on board and operable like navigation lights, visual distress signals, engine cut-off device, sound producing device, anchor with line, ventilation, first aid kit, and fire extinguisher. Plus, their battery had to be covered and strapped down securely to prevent fires.

    I used to be one of those boaters that thought my U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved, marine-type fire extinguisher was good if the gauge was in the green. Now I know it’s best to turn extinguishers upside down and tap them on the bottom a few times once a month, because the ingredients inside can settle making them ineffective. You should also weigh them to make sure they are the required weight on the label or that could be a sign that they have expired. If in doubt about your extinguisher, replace it. It’s inexpensive compared to the consequences of a boat fire.

    Also, on any vessel 16-feet and longer (except canoes and kayaks), boaters are required by the USCG to have a throwable flotation device. The items most boaters failed to have onboard were enough readily-accessible, USCG approved, life jackets to fit everyone going out on their boat. Life jackets would be packaged, stuffed under seats, or in any crevice available and that’s not accessible. This was during on-shore courtesy inspections, so we warned boaters that if they were actually on the lake they could be ticketed for not having life jackets accessible and properly-fitted for every passenger.

    My state law requires children under 13 to wear a life jacket while boating. On my boat, inherently-buoyant life jackets are worn by all those who are not strong swimmers, regardless of their age. The good swimmers on my boat usually wear inflatable life jackets, either suspender or belt styles. However, if anyone is going to be towed doing whatever water sport activity they enjoy, they wear an inherently-buoyant life jacket designed for high impact. Check the label inside your life jacket to make sure it’s USCG approved for your particular activity.

    I learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to have a paddle on board in case the motor isn’t cooperating. Having some method of communication to the outside world is another essential piece of safety equipment. Cell phones don’t work everywhere; for boating on large lakes and rivers it’s better to rely on a VHF-FM Marine radio. Channel 16 (156.8 MHz) is the international calling and distress channel.

    A Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats and Safety Tips can be found at this link In that publication, you’ll find more safety requirements for vessels over 26’ long, such as backfire flame arrester, oil pollution placard, garbage placards, marine sanitation device, and inland navigation rules book. State boating equipment regulations vary so make sure you check the requirements for wherever you’re going boating.

    The USCG Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons give free Vessel Safety Checks (VSC) to make sure boats are meeting all the federal and state agency requirements. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park rangers and state marine law enforcement personnel may conduct VSC’s in your area too. It’s best to have your boat checked by the VSC experts annually to ensure you’re boating safely. You can request a VSC at



    Date Taken: 06.06.2018
    Date Posted: 06.06.2018 17:07
    Story ID: 279865
    Location: US

    Web Views: 58
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