|Safety Items for your Bass Boat|
|Written by Mike Cork|
|Monday, 25 March 2013 16:45|
Every bass angler has come across situations on the water that without the proper decision things could have become dangerous or even tragic. Many things can cause a dangerous situation while on the water; underestimating the weather, possibly a novice boater makes a poor decision that affects you, or maybe motor trouble miles from a destination. Bottom line is that a bad situation only gets worse when on the water. Having some safety devices and equipment can protect lives.
Most states have a list of required items; depending on the length of your boat these can be different. Generally most states follow U.S. Coast Guard suggestions. Things like a paddle, an anchor, and life vests for each person on the boat. To make sure you are legal, and to get you started in the right direction for safe boating, I highly recommend you take a few minutes to visit your states website to find the requirements, and any suggestions they may have. I have some things that I have added to my boat that go above and beyond the states minimums; these items have helped me over the course of my 40 years of boating.
A flare gun is normally not required by states in a boat under 25 feet in length. With most bass boats under this, you are probably legal not to carry one. However, if you fish a lot of very open water, like the great lakes, which will take you away from shorelines, it would be very wise to carry one. Out on the water, nothing can draw attention like a flare gun. If you fish waters that are a little narrower yet still very large, a less evasive signal device might be easier for you to carry. I personally carry an old music CD. You can reflect sun light off the CD to draw another boater’s attention. Keep in mind this only works if the sun is shining; so on cloudy days, it’s not going to be effective. I also carry two hand held flares. Should night fall or cloudy weather prevent the CD from working, I’ve got the flares. Just be careful if you select hand held fares and don’t let ashes land in your boat.
Anyone that fishes at night probably already has a flash light in their boat. If you don’t, you probably never thought to put one in your boat. If for whatever reason you are stranded and night falls, a flash light is an effective way to generate a visual distress signal. However, don’t put it in your boat and forget about it; batteries need to be replaced and bulbs fail regularly from the excessive vibration of a boat ride.
Let’s talk sound. Most states require that boats over 20 feet in length have some sort of audible signaling device on board. Most bass boats come with a horn; however, that horn works from your battery and will drain it over time. You may need your battery for other things. So I carry a compressed gas horn. It’s very loud and takes up very little room in the boat. Something else that takes up very little room that generates an audible noise is a standard whistle. If your batteries and compressed gas die, you still have a chance to get someone’s attention. This may seem over redundant, but when you’re looking at spending the night in a sinking boat you’ll be glad you have it. Plus, horns are getting common on the water, especially in the summer with all the pleasure boaters on the water. If you’re fishing along and you hear a horn you may not think much of it, but if you hear a whistle, wouldn’t that peak your attention a little more?
Visual and audible signaling devices only work if someone is watching or at least near enough for you to get their attention. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced being stuck out on the water for an extended period of time. Without going into detail as to why, I wanted to talk about some of the things that I wish I had.
First was a blanket, even in the summer season, night time temperatures will fall into the 50 to 70 degree range. While fishing, this is comfortable. However, if you’re wet, it’s miserable. Even if you’re dry, exposure to these kinds of temperatures for several hours without activity can make you cold. I realize that carrying a blanket is not feasible; however an extra pair of sweat pants and shirt can be stuffed into a Ziploc baggy and kept in a rod locker just in case. You can go one step further and look into the heating blankets that are sold in survival equipment sections of most stores. They are folded up into a nice small package and can be stored easily in a boat. Staying warm will do wonders for your survival; it will allow you to concentrate on the important things like getting out of the mess you’re in.
Then there are the basics, what I call my “lost in the woods” survival pack. It contains a survival bracelet for the rope, a sharp pocket knife, and water proof matches. I also keep these items in a small Ziploc to keep them dry. I figure the only time I should need them is if I sink my boat and need to walk through the woods to get to safety. So if the boat sinks, I’m going to want these items to remain dry. Keep in mind that when I say sinking boat, we are talking about today’s boats that only sink so far. They don’t necessarily sink to the bottom of the lake, but they do become useless. With a sharp knife, matches, and some rope, I can build fires, try my hand at catching food, and protect myself for at least a couple days should it take that long to find safety.
The two last things on my list are pretty simple, and you may already carry them. First is a very strong sun screen. I keep an extra bottle of SPF 50 in the boat. If it looks as if you are going to spend another day in the open sun, you will need to protect yourself. Not only will it prevent a painful burn, but if you are stuck overnight that sunburn is going to make you feel colder. Lastly are medications; if you take medication on a regular basis, it’s important to keep a stash of it in the boat. This way if you’re stranded for any length of time you will not put yourself in any further danger. Remember to rotate your medications every couple months as they may have expiration dates.
I’ve known anglers to carry a small hatchet, as well as a small hand saw. While they claim it’s a tool just in case, I think it’s more for building brush piles to sink.
With just a few simple things, you will be prepared to signal help in case you need it. With a couple extra things that don’t take up much room, you’ll be prepared to survive a night on the water. The biggest thing you can do to protect yourself and others while on the water is make it a rule that life jackets must be worn. Have you ever heard a news report of someone that drowned while wearing a life jacket?Mike Cork
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