As the water warms and the chill departs from the air, eager fishermen ready their boats and tackle for another season. This ritual often includes replacing old fishing line in their reels, organizing their baits, and guaranteeing that their boats are operational. An often overlooked, but prudent undertaking would be to check the safety equipment onboard and prepare it for the upcoming season.
Safety equipment includes fire extinguishers, first aid kits, PFD’s, flares, distress flags, anchors, ropes, and tool kits. It is important to check these items thoroughly and make sure that they are accessible and in proper shape if their use becomes necessary.
A fisherman must make it a priority to check this equipment not only at the beginning of the year, but also to keep a close eye on these items throughout the entire year. Replace bandages as they are used, and make sure simple items like hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic cream are available. A first aid kit should include these items as well as scissors and tweezers. Often overlooked items that protect your health on the water are sunscreen and insect repellant. These items should be applied early in the morning and reapplied as the day continues. Tool kits should be inspected to be certain all necessary tools are present for any on-water repairs. Fire extinguishers should be mounted in an area where they are accessible and especially not in an area where a fire is likely to start. An improperly placed fire extinguisher does the boat and its passengers no good if it cannot be retrieved during a fire. Personal flotation devices have undergone an extensive transformation during the past few years. Companies such as SOSpenders and Mustang have developed automatic deploying life vests which are comfortable to wear all day long while fishing. These PFD’s should be checked periodically for wear around the CO2 cartridge which discharges the flotation apparatus. Traditional life vests should be worn whenever the outboard motor is running, and the kill switch should be attached also. The vests should be checked for loose material which may snag on the boat and cause an accident.
Many states including Ohio require boats to carry specific signaling devices according to the boat’s length. Boats should carry a mirror, whistle, or distress flag that can signal other vessels that you are in need of assistance. These items should be placed in obvious places where they are accessible to those on the boat in case of an emergency. Flares are often a required piece of safety equipment, and they should be checked to make sure they are functional. Many flares carry an expiration date, and they should be replaced after that point.
A boat should also carry adequate rope for mooring and for use with an anchor. The anchor should be of adequate weight to hold the boat in position if the need arises. The boat should carry sufficient rope of a marine grade for the depth of water that the boater will encounter. The rope should be checked for weak spots, and replaced if any are found.
Lastly, a safe trip to the water would not be complete without a cell phone or VHF radio, a GPS (handheld or attached to your fish finder), and a float plan. It is important that someone know where you are going, when you will return, and how to get a hold of you in an emergency. It is equally important for you to be able to contact someone if you are in the emergency. A cell phone, even when de-activated, can dial 911 and call authorities and alert them that you are in distress. A VHF radio can alert authorities or other boaters to any problems you encounter. A GPS will allow you to pinpoint your location, and reduce the arrival time of emergency services.
Follow these simple suggestions, and have a safe time out on the water.
Editorial Staff Writer