Avoiding / Minimizing Dangerous Situations:

  • Watch the weather
    Don’t let changing weather catch you by surprise. Check the marine forecast before leaving the dock. Continue to check the weather forecast throughout the day, and watch the sky, especially in the direction of land.
  • Make sure everyone on board knows:
    • Where all safety gear is stowed
    • How to handle any fishing gear they may use during the day’s fishing. Confusion during the excitement of landing a fish could get someone injured.
  • Make sure at least two people on board know:
    • How to operate the boat and its navigation equipment well enough to get the boat back to port
    • Basic first aid treatments for burns, heavy bleeding, sun stroke, hypothermia, and drowning
      Expert help is too far away to wait for if someone on board is seriously injured.
      Note: Victims of severe hypothermia should be laid flat, stripped of wet clothing, and warmed slowly by covering them with a blanket or sleeping bag and having someone else lie inside with them. Do not sit them up or move them too much, as this can trigger cardiac arrest.
    • How to get someone back into the boat if they fall overboard.
  • Make sure the boat is ready:
    • Operating running lights
    • Sufficient fuel and oil on board
    • Engines in good condition
      This is a long run for a boat with only one engine. At a minimum, a “kicker” outboard motor should be installed. The kicker should be powerful enough to move the boat in rough seas, not just maintain position.
  • Make sure the following is on board and in good condition:
    • Fire extinguisher (at least a type B,C; type A,B,C best)
    • RADAR
    • Ladder
      A portable, stowable ladder can get someone back on board quickly and easily.
    • Enough drinking water for everyone on board
    • First Aid Kit Include: Aspirin, burn cream, antinausia medication, bandages, sterile gauze, smelling salts
  • File a float plan with someone on shore, including:
    • Vessel description – name, length, type (include characteristics easily seen from the air)
    • Number of people on board
    • Whether an EPIRB is onboard and what type
    • Launch time and location
    • Intended offshore destination(s)
    • Estimated return time
    • Time after which Coast Guard should be notified of failure to return

Surviving Dangerous Situations:

  • Getting Help:
    • Make sure everyone on board knows:
      • How to operate the radio well enough to call for help
      • How to operate the navigation equipment well enough to give a current location
  • Make sure the following is on board and in good condition:
    • EPIRB – Category 1 or Category 2
    • Class A, Class B, and Class C EPIRBs operate on VHF frequencies, have limited transmission range, and are only accurate to within 5-10 miles. Category 1 and 2 EPIRB transmissions are on a dedicated emergency frequency, 406 MHz, which is monitored by satellites and accurate to within 1-3 miles. If properly registered with NOAA, the signal from these 406 MHz EPIRBs can also provide rescue crews with vessel information.
    • VHF marine radio
    • GPS and/or Loran unit
    • Whistle or air horn (plastic whistles will last longer and are easier to test)
    • Aerial Flares
    • One of the following for each person on board:
      • Hand-held flare, hand-held smoke signal, or hand-held mirror
      • Strobe light or watertight flash light
  • Consider carrying this additional equipment:
    • Cell phone
      Marine cell phone antennas are available that can increase the range of a cell phone offshore. However, cell phones cannot transmit as far as VHF radios.
    • Single Side Band (SSB) Radio
      Marine VHF radio transmissions are line-of-sight. When a boat travels far enough offshore the curvature of the earth will prevent its VHF signals from reaching land. SSB radio transmissions can reach shore-based receivers from any point offshore by “skipping” off the ionosphere and returning to earth beyond the horizon. If your boat’s VHF radio is unable to reach shore from offshore areas you frequent, consider adding an SSB radio.
    • Hand-held VHF radio
      Hand-held units can act as backups if the mounted equipment fails.
    • Hand-held GPS
      Having both can be useful if the boat has a general electrical failure.
  • Make sure everyone on board knows:
    • Where the Type I personal floatation devices are stowed, and how to put one on
      Consider using Type I self-inflating PFDs, which can be worn at all times with minimal discomfort.
    • How to make “water wings” with their pants if they are not wearing a PFD
      Take off you pants, tie knots in the end of each leg. Hold the pants open by the waistband above and behind your head, then whip the pants forward into the water in front of you, filling the legs with air.
    • How to avoid hypothermia in the water
      One person should keep their knees drawn up to their chest. Two people should hold each other face-to-face.
    • How to use the hand-held flares, smoke signals, strobes, or other visual signals on board
    • That they should attempt to stay with the boat, which is much easier for searchers to find
  • Be ready to survive leaving the boat quickly:
    • Keep flares, smoke signals, strobes, whistles, etc attached to PFDs or in a grab bag.
    • Keep emergency water and food in grab bags, and keep grab bags out on the deck.