Safety First

Many boaters have already logged significant hours on the water. For me up here in New England? I’m just getting ready. The initial arrival of migrating striped bass combined with unseasonably warm temperatures has motivated me to get my boat out of the mothballs. Part of my checklist is reviewing all of my U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) safety requirements. I’ve got PFD’s for every passenger I intend to bring onboard, a whistle, a visual distress signal, and a fire extinguisher. All flares have been replaced, all electronics work, and the radio works like a champ. I toss in my anchor and line, and everything from last year is a go. Then I wondered: is there anything else that I should add to make this upcoming season safer?

To learn about other options I turned to Mike Mills, the owner of one of the industry-leading marine supply companies, Jamestown Distributors ( Mike is about as experienced a boater as it gets. He is a former competitive sailor, a motor boater, a fisherman, a surfer, heck, the guy even kite boards! Mike had some great ideas for additional safety items to make the season more enjoyable. If you’re ever in Bristol, Rhode Island in the offseason stop by his shop and check out his perfectly restored 1970 SeaCraft. (Otherwise, look for it on the water). Here’s Mike’s top 5:

1. Stay Afloat Stay Afloat is a boat damage control putty that instantly stops leaks in boats and fittings. Pull it out of the container, pull off a desired amount, knead in your hands, and fill the hole. The putty can be used in the water and it is an instant fix (no waiting necessary). If you’ve got a hole or crack in your hull and the water is coming in, apply the putty. It’s made in America, too.

2. Emergency Location Beacon Devices There are a number of EPIRB products that reveal the location of a boater in a man-overboard situation. One of them, the SafeLink R10 SRS, fits to a lifejacket and alerts vessels with an AIS chart plotter that a boater is in distress. It also communicates GPS position information to all rescue services who monitor channels.

3. Medical Kits Having an onboard medical kit to accommodate passengers and crew is important. There are a number of fully stocked waterproof boxes or bags that provide medical supplies for use on short, medium or long trips by your crew. The contents in the packs are a true, how should I say, life preserver.

4. Autotether Wireless Lanyard System In the past, boaters would attach a red lanyard from their belt to their kill switch. Moving around required constant hooking and unhooking. The Autotether has a sensor that transmits radio waves between the captain and the sensor on the kill switch for a distance inside of 150 feet. If that distance is increased, as in the captain falling overboard, the engine cuts out.

5. A waterproof, hand-held radio. Boaters who’ve experienced electrical problems or blown fuses know that they can’t use their dash-mount radio. Having a backup is always a good idea. ‘Nuff said.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at