Boat AccessoriesBoating SafetyFishing Gear

Keep Your Family Safe On the Water

Note From the Editor:

We all want to get our families into our favorite pastime of fishing and boating, so it has never been easier or more affordable to keep this precious cargo safe. Technology has advanced and prices have dropped so that a potentially life saving piece of equipment is cheaper than many of the reels we buy. So protect yourself, your family and your friends with the veil of protection these devices offer in an emergency.

We all want our family, friends and loved ones to return home safely from every adventure on the water, whether it’s a day spent fishing, a sail down the coast or an extended voyage to a distant island. We can’t deny that leaving shore behind comes with at least some level of inherent danger from weather, accidents, mechanical failures, fires and rough seas. It’s all part of what makes every day on the water an adventure and every safe return to the dock a joyous occasion.

Fortunately, safety technology has expanded by leaps and bounds over recent years — and nowhere is this more evident than in the area of safety-related marine electronics. It can be a bit daunting for friends and family members to sort through this technology and marketing jargon, to determine what the boaters in their life really need.

“Safety technology has seen both rapid growth and evolution, and these products continue to be among our hottest sellers,”

said The GPS Store’s Scott Heffernan. “This is particularly true over the Holidays. After all, what better way to show the boaters in your life that you love them than a gift that could literally help save their life some day?”

The NMEA-certified staff of The GPS Store offers this gift-giving guide to the latest safety products, from stocking stuffers to boater’s “dream gifts”:

Ditch Bag — As the name implies, ditch bags like the ACR RapidDitch Express ($49.95 through TheGPSStore.com) are specialized floating bags designed to hold and organize safety gear and electronics for emergency, abandon-ship situations. All the safety gear in the world won’t help you if it’s spread around the boat and inaccessible. Having a good ditch bag is a critical first step to improving the survivability of emergency situations. It keeps things like beacons, lights, radios, signals and GPS close at hand, and even provides added flotation for people in the water.

Emergency Handheld VHF – Most boats have dedicated VHF radios, but if you lose power or can’t reach the radio in an emergency, it won’t help you. A backup handheld VHF with built-in GPS is a great idea; particularly one designed for emergencies like Standard Horizon’s HX851 ($249.95 through TheGPSStore.com). This radio is waterproof and floats; so it can be used to make emergency calls after you’ve abandoned ship. It even glows in the dark and features a strobe light that activates automatically in water — something that will come in handy in darkness or inclement weather. In addition to normal VHF communications with nearby vessels, you can fire-off one-button Digital Selective Calling (DSC) distress calls that alert all DSC-equipped vessels with your emergency and GPS position.

EPIRB — This stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which alerts Coast Guard and local Search & Rescue agencies of your emergency and — if equipped — GPS position using satellites and earth stations. Units like the Cat II ACR Global Fix Pro ($429.95 through TheGPSStore.com) can be carried in a ditch bag and manually deployed. Others like the Cat I ACR 2846 Global Fix iPro ($699.95) are often mounted on the vessel so they will float free and activate if a vessel sinks or capsizes. Their ability to self-activate in catastrophic events is an important first line of defense and has helped speed rescue to thousands of boaters worldwide. Personal Locator Beacon — PLBs like the ACR ResQLink ($254.95 through TheGPSStore.com) are like EPIRBs for passengers. They broadcast a 406MHz satellite distress signal to the Coast Guard and separate homing signal to local Search & Rescue agencies. Several PLBs can fit inside a ditch bag, and they are designed to clip onto life jackets. Boaters often get separated when they go into the water; having a PLB for everyone aboard can be the difference between life and death in an emergency. When boating far offshore, crossing dangerous bars or encountering heavy weather, it’s a good idea to have all passengers wearing their PLBs.

Emergency Lights — You can’t be rescued without being seen first. Boating emergencies often occur at night, during bad weather and/or in rough seas. All these things contribute to poor visibility and can hamper rescue efforts at a time when minutes matter. There are many affordable lights designed specifically for this purpose; we recommend the ACR Firefly Waterbug Strobe Light ($69.95 through TheGPSStore.com). This product attaches to life vests and activates automatically in the water. The bright strobe makes boaters visible in the water, even under the worst conditions. There should be one of these for each passenger in every ditch bag.

Handheld GPS — GPS chartplotters are practically standard equipment on most boats today, however, it could easily be inoperable due to power loss, or inaccessible on a vessel filling with water. This is where a handheld like the waterproof, floating Garmin GPS 72H ($127.95 through TheGPSStore.com) can literally save the day. It may well be that rescue will come from nearby vessels, and being able to pinpoint and report your position will be critical. Having a handheld GPS in your ditch bag also provides a ready backup in the event of non-emergency navigation system failures (if, for example, you just need to save a fishing trip rather than save your life).

Satellite Messenger/Tracker — About the size of a smart phone, the waterproof Spot 2 Satellite Messenger and Personal Tracker ($99.95 through TheGPSStore.com) is designed to provide peace of mind to boaters and their loved ones. With the push of a button, users can notify family, friends or International Rescue Centers of their situation or just report in to contacts worldwide that they’re OK. A Help Mode is provided for non-life-threatening emergencies (think broken down or out of gas). You can also set it up for your contacts to track your location and voyage progress using Google Maps.

Satellite Phone — A big part of peace of mind on the water is just knowing you can keep in touch with friends and family. Since many voyages take people out of cell range, technology like a Globalstar GSP 1700 Satellite Phone ($499.95 through TheGPSStore.com) can help boaters and loved ones stay connected. Handheld and portable, this system provides even the smallest boat with reliable communications at sea. Another variation of satellite technology is the Delorme InReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator ($299.95 through TheGPSStore.com). This compact device lets you send and receive text messages and emails outside of cell range, while a built-in GPS can be used to send your location to emergency response centers. Like a satellite phone, it has many useful applications outside of boating emergencies.

Life Raft — While this may not be “electronics,” a life raft like the Viking RescYou Coastal ($1,795 through TheGPSStore.com) may be the ultimate life saving gift. Getting out of the water is key to survival, particularly in places where rescue will take hours. This sturdy six-man raft is designed for coastal cruising and sport fishing, where rescue can be expected within 24 hours. It easily fits in a valise or deck/rail-mounted fiberglass container, yet offers advanced features including an auto-inflating canopy, automatic strobe and interior lights, stabilizing ballast bags and coastal emergency pack.

“Buying safety gear for a boater or fisherman in your life is a great way to show you care, and that you want them to come home safe from every trip,” said Heffernan. “It also makes for a great Holiday gift-giving theme. Buy a ditch bag and invite other family members to give items to help fill it up. There are ideas that cover every budget — these are just a few examples. Small, inexpensive items like signal mirrors, safety whistles and visual distress signals make great stocking stuffers,” he added.

To learn more about giving the gift of safety — and love — for the Holidays, call The GPS Store customer service at (800) 477-2611 or visit their website at www.TheGPSStore.com.

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