Lifesaving gift ideas for boaters

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Need gift ideas for your favorite boater? Give the gift of life – here are a few ideas that may end up ensuring your boater is around for the holidays next year.

First on your list should be a comfortable Coast Guard approved life jacket designed for the intended use of the boater on your list. You may have heard that specific Type classifications previously used to describe the performance characteristics of life jackets have been eliminated. What you need to know is that all life jackets should be Coast Guard approved and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s design. That means all the snaps snapped, zippers zipped and buckles buckled! The relatively new inflatable models come in a variety of styles, sizes, colors and design that are appropriate for almost any type of boating. The Coast Guard continues to recommend a comfortable inherently buoyant life jacket for small boat (less than 26’) sailors as well as paddlers in canoes and kayaks. However a fanny-pack type inflatable worn around the waist still allows for ample movement while on stand-up paddle boards and are readily available when worn if needed in the water.

In far too many situations, the release of carbon monoxide from engines and various types of heaters can result in the death or serious injury of those trying to stay warm during the colder winter months. Far too many people have died from carbon monoxide-related watercraft incidents. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is formed by incomplete combustion of any fuel, including gasoline, kerosene, wood, coal, oil, natural gas or charcoal. Sources on a boat include gasoline engines, generators, cooking ranges and space heaters. “Carbon monoxide is a silent killer because it is an odorless, colorless gas,” said Coast Guard Boating Safety Program Manager Ed Huntsman. “All boat engines produce carbon monoxide and boaters across the country are killed every year because of improper cabin ventilation, poorly maintained equipment and careless behavior.” Dangerous or deadly fumes can accumulate in confined spaces on boats, near stern ladders and under swimming platforms. Swimmers and water-skiers behind running boat engines face the greatest risk of exposure to exhaust fumes, which can build up to deadly levels. Boats emit up to 188 times the carbon monoxide that cars do. So next on the gift list is a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector.

You can’t go wrong with giving a quality marine band VHF radio. Available in hand-held or permanently mounted models, submersible and yes, even water proof, a VHF radio allows a boater to communicate with others – including the towing company, local enforcement officers and the Coast Guard in the event help is needed. Easy to use, inexpensive and readily available, a marine band radio is far superior to a cell phone in an emergency because if the user is lost, or not really aware of their exact location, it can take up to three hours to locate a cell phone – and that’s assuming it’s within the range of the nearest cell tower.

Another great gift for a boater, especially an off-shore fisherman, is a personal locator beacon. Known widely as a PLB or EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon), many lives have been saved with this well established and relatively inexpensive technology.

“Let’s face it” said Huntsman, “Nobody gets up in the morning for a great day out on the water and says ‘I think I’m going to go out fishing or paddling and see what I can do to put myself in a serious life threatening situation so I can get on the news tonight!’ But hardly a week goes by that we don’t see a news report involving a serious boating related accident.”

Give a gift that can save a life. Then make them promise to use it!

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