*Pro Tip: Don’t use the good bubbly to christen the boat.*
Epirbs let search-and-rescue teams know where you are if something goes wrong. They can home in your position using GPS coordinates that the epirb sends out—assuming that you have taken the time to register the epirb properly.
The good people at ACR Electronics make it easy for you to do this, no matter where you live. Their website lets you type in your home country and then automatically click through to the place where you should input your data.
Also worth noting: The U.S. Power Squadrons recommends that you then take an extra registration step to make sure that the U.S. Coast Guard can correlate distress data as it comes in during a search. Follow the steps on the Power Squadrons website, and you’re good to go cruising.
Emergency flares expire 42 months after they’re made, which means boaters are required to replace them after just a few seasons on the water. If you’re out cruising on coastal waters, including the Great Lakes, then you need to have up-to-date flares.
This handy guide from the U.S. Coast Guard explains the various types of flares that are available and approved. Different combinations are allowed for day and night use.
What to do with the old flares is a more complicated issue. The State of Maine is working to be a national leader on it, so for now, check with your local authorities about the best way to dispose of expired flares from your boat.
The folks who make flotation devices are working on upgrades all the time, trying to make them more comfortable while staying within regulations—so that more people will actually wear them while out enjoying time on their boats. According to BoatUS, more than two-thirds of all boating fatalities are drowning incidents, and 90 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Those statistics shift in your favor if you have properly fitting life jackets for everyone on board, including the dogs and kids.
You have the fishing poles. You’re tripping over snorkeling masks. Now’s the time to broaden your water-toy horizons. Treat yourself to some new gear to make boating in the next year even more fun.
Have you thought about getting a different type of tow toy? Towable tubes are super fun, but how about a three- or four-person towable, to pull all the kids behind the boat at once? Or a banana-shaped tube to take the art of hanging on up a notch at high speeds?
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been boating for three weeks or three years: There’s always something you can learn about being safer and smarter as a skipper out on the water.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a menu of courses for boaters of all levels. There’s everything from basic boating safety to navigating with GPS to classes that focus on tying knots or using the VHF radio. Some of the classes are just an hour or two long, while others go in-depth with eight to 13 sessions.
If you type in your ZIP code at that website, it will take you to a list of all the upcoming courses in your area, and even give you the email address to contact the instructor.
It’s dizzying, the speed with which marine electronics manufacturers are coming up with new gadgets and gizmos. Nobody can keep up with it all, and you’ll definitely never find the room to stow it all on your boat, but you can treat yourself this year to one piece of cool tech.
We all say we want to do this, but then we let work and other commitments get in the way. Mark a day on every month of the 2020 calendar right now. That’s a boating day, down in ink. It’s the best resolution you’ll ever be happy that you kept.
Ready upgrade your boat in 2020? Use our Boat Finder tool to explore different boat types and find the one that’s right for you.