Drowning causes 80% of boating accident deaths. 83% of these deaths are people without personal flotation devices (PFD). If you’ve spent much time on a boat, you won’t be surprised that the top safety device for any water vessel is a PFD for every person on board.
But what else should you bring to stay safe and comfortable? These 10 things should be on any boat you board.
- PFD: PFD’s don’t just save lives–California law requires them. Rules vary by size and type of boat. At a minimum, vessels must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket readily accessible for every person. Children under 13 must wear them while on board. Exceptions and additional requirements apply, so check with the California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW).
- Sunscreen: Sunburn hurts! And it can lead to bigger health problems. Choose a sunscreen with an appropriate SPF, apply more than you think you need, and reapply every two hours or so. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that an average adult apply about an ounce of sunscreen. Long sleeves, pants and hats can also protect skin.
- Water: Dehydration happens quickly in the hot sun. Bring plenty of drinking water per person and add extra in case you are out longer than planned.
- Snacks: Hungry people are not happy people! In addition to any “party snacks,” bring food that can sustain you in case of emergency, such as nuts and protein bars.
- Fire extinguisher: If you’re in a motorboat, you most likely need a Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher on board. Exceptions apply based on the type and size of the boat, including whether there is an installed fire extinguishing system. The California DBW publishes a guide of boating laws and safety which explains the safety equipment boats must have
- Devices to signal distress: If something goes wrong, you need a way to get help. Sound signaling devices (such as whistles) and visual distress signals are required for most vessels and are recommended for all.
- Radio and cell phone: Boating safety experts recommend that vessels have a VHF marine radio, even if not required by law. Depending on where you travel, other radios may be recommended. Most boaters carry cell phones, but cell service may not be dependable in all areas. Keep cell phones in waterproof containers.
- A filed float plan: the US Coast Guard recommends that all boaters “file a float plan” with a reliable person specifying when you are leaving, where you are going, and when you will return. If anything changes, and when you return, let that person know. If you don’t return on time, that person can report you as overdue.
- Dry clothes: Whether you want to be comfortable on the drive home or the wind picks up after a dip in the lake, dry clothes are always good to have on hand. Keep them dry in a zip-lock bag.
- First aid kit: Never leave shore without at least a basic kit for cuts, stings, bites, headaches and minor pain. Adjust your contents based on where you are going and how long you will be out. Regularly check to make sure items are not expired or damaged.
The safety attorneys at Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel know that a day on the lake is a perfect plan for the hot, sunny days of July. We encourage you to follow these safety suggestions, and if you are involved in a boating accident, contact us for a free consultation about your situation.
 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics 2016. These numbers reflect fatalities where a cause of death was known and where use of PFD was reported.
Photo credit: Spencer Wright via Flickr Creative Commons.