As the countdown to the holidays quickly winds down and you’re trying to make those few last-minute purchases, we want to remind you of a few lifesaving gifts for the special boater in your life.
So put down that ugly sweater, return that tired, old tie back to the rack and check out this list of thoughtful gifts that could help your favorite boater.
Our top pick of the season is a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket! A life jacket buys your boater time to catch their breath when they fall in the water. It buys them time to try to rescue themself and get back on their boat or personal watercraft. If their boat has drifted away and they’ve used up their energy trying to get back to the boat or swim to shore (it’s farther than it looks) then the life jacket buys your boater time to float and wait to be rescued.
You can bet your Santa-shaped sugar cookies that lifejackets aren’t the only things that can keep your boater safe while out on the water.
An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon can assist the Coast Guard and other rescue personnel find your boater in the event of an emergency. A properly registered beacon alerts rescuers that your boater may be in distress and can provide them with important information such as the boat’s last known location and a description of the vessel.
Although your boater may enjoy warming up next to a nice, toasty fire this time of year, having a fire aboard a boat just doesn’t have the same enjoyableness. But at sea, things can go wrong and it’s best to be prepared for anything. We recommend having a fire extinguisher mounted in a readily accessible location on your boater’s vessel. Consider locations where the extinguisher can be reached easily; for example, at or near the steering station or in the galley or engine room, but away from locations where a fire may likely start.
In this day and age most when nearly everyone has a cellphone, we still recommend boaters also carry a VHF-FM marine radio and keep that cellphone as a backup form of communication. While your boater may get lucky and have cellphone coverage in some areas, not all areas on the water can get reception. Also, have you ever tried to use a wet phone? The Coast Guard and other response agencies monitor radio frequencies 24 hours a day and can hear your boater’s call for help. Does your favorite boater have an old radio? All new models are equipped with a Digital Select Calling capability. These radios will automatically send out a distress signal with the touch of a button. When properly registered and connected to a GPS unit, these radios automatically provide exact position information and can even provide responders with the nature of the emergency. The holidays are a great time for upgrades!
Another great gift is the gift of knowledge. Enrolling your loved one in a boating safety course is one of the best gifts to give, because, as the saying goes…knowledge is power. Your favorite boater will learn basic boat handling principles, required and recommended safety equipment, navigational rules and how to deal with boating emergencies. Statistics show that boaters who have taken a boating safety course are far less likely to be involved in a boating accident or fatality. Courses are offered throughout the year with many different pricing options. Some have a nominal fee, and there are even courses available for free, perfect for those on a tight budget during the holiday season.
Speaking of free, there are two items on our wish list that are just that – and they don’t require bows, bags, boxes or wrapping paper! The first is as simple as downloading an app onto that special boater’s mobile device. With the Coast Guard mobile application, boaters can file a float plan, report suspicious activity, and have access to information such as what safety equipment is required for their boat, right at their fingertips.
Your local Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron members round out this wish list with their free vessel safety checks (VSC). A VSC is an excellent way to assure your boater’s vessel has the necessary equipment to be safe on the water and could one day save their life. The free VSC is performed at your boat – whether in a slip, at the launch ramp, or in your driveway – by a certified vessel examiner, at a mutually convenient time. There is no charge, and no consequences if you don’t pass.
From all of our crews to you and yours, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season!