Spring is an exciting time. The days are getting longer, the sun is shining brighter, the temperature steadily gets warmer and warmer. Spring is also the time when many sailors in the Northern Hemisphere can be seen prepping their boats for the first sail of the season. If you are like us, our Spring prep often includes what safety equipment to keep in the boat from last season, and what equipment we need to replace for the coming season. After a few requests, we have put together this list of the best safety equipment for your sailboat.
Since we sail mostly in Utah, this list is mostly what is required by Utah State Law. Make sure to check your local jurisdiction to see what the safety requirements are where you sail.
*Note that this list is best for day sailors or vessels under 16 ft.
Required Safety Equipment
1.PFD’s (Personal Flotation Device)
This is probably the most obvious piece of safety equipment and the one that most of us think of first. If something unexpected happens and you are surrounded by water, there’s a good chance you’ll want to be floating rather than sinking. There are hundreds of variations of PFD’s out on the market, but we like this Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest for three reasons. It’s simple, it’s comfortable and it works. We have our own vest that we have been using for years, and it is still holding strong. Originally, we bought it for our little canoe and over the years it’s had a permanent home down below in our Catalina 22′. Remember, you should always have enough vests for as many people that are on board on any given outing. We tend to have a looser rule of actually wearing them while on our Catalina 22′ and Hobie Holder (unless we are in rough waters), but we ALWAYS wear them while on our Hobie 16′ and the Triak.
If you are in the market for an inflatable one, check out our review of West Marine’s Inflatable PFD HERE.
2. Paddle/Propulsion Device
It might be a slight embarrassment for most sailors to pull out the old paddle with no wind available to power the boat, but it’s an essential safety tool and we are always glad we have it when we need it. There have were a few day sails, especially when we were novices to most of our boats, when the wind died out in the middle of the lake and we had a time crunch to get back to shore. We have loved this Attwood Telescoping Paddle and have used it for years. Keep in mind, this is a lightweight compact paddled used for small boat sailing (we use it in our Hobie 16′ and Hobie Holder) it’s not meant for big boats or everyday wear and tear.
3. Navigation Lights/Bow Light
When the sun sets visibility on the water usually drops significantly. It only makes sense that more you can see other boats out and they can see you, the safer you’ll be. All you need is something simple that works well. Our boats all came with a light installed, but we’ve heard the installation for this navigation/bow light is mostly hassle-free. For more options on navigation lights…check out our previous article HERE.
Nothing like a good old fashioned bucket for bailing the water out of the hull when leaks pop up. Other bailers you can use include a plastic pitcher or a large sponge. You can find one at just about any boating store, Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s or Walmart.
5. Sound Producing Device
Otherwise known as a whistle or blowhorn. We found this one on Amazon is loud, easy to handle and can be used in many different scenarios beyond your sailboat. This whistle or any whistle like this one can be found at any boating or outdoor recreation store. You’ll want to look for one that can be heard at least a mile away.
Recommended Safety Equipment
What happens when you are in trouble and you need to get a hold of someone fast? Most of us would probably whip out our cell phones. Trouble is, on the water in the middle of a lake or on the ocean cell service drops within feet of the shore. Your radio may be the piece of equipment that will help save your life…and potentially your boat. Only boats that are 20m (65.6 feet) and bigger are required to have a radio, but you’ll want to have one regardless if you are smaller than that. Each time you sail at a new lake click into channel 16, this is the channel you’ll use to make a distress signal and hear weather reports and updates. Our radio has been used in all of our boats for the past several years, this one on Amazon is just like what we have.
Water is essential on a sailboat. Being out in the sun makes everyone thirsty and it’s always good to have some on hand. We keep 10-12 water bottles on the boat at all times for the spur-of-the-moment midday cruises and those evening picnic sails. Plus if you get stranded, at least you don’t have to worry about running out of water. Pick some up at your local grocery store and you’re good to go. Replace these at least once a year, most likely you’ll buy a two three boxes throughout the season.
The sun is setting over the horizon, the wind is just starting pick and the lake and a perfect sail are right in front of you. You don’t want to head back in just yet and we don’t blame you, that’s why it’s always good to carry a flashlight with an spare set of batteries on the boat. You never know when a little light may just help save the day. Of course, if you do any night sailing, you should have your red and green lights already installed on your boat so other boaters can see your port and starboard sides (read our article about it here). We are excited to test out our LuminAid lights on the boat this season. Unlike flashlights, these inflatable lights are solar charged making them a perfect compliment on a sailboat. If you try out a LuminAid on our boat, let us know what you think.
For a more comprehensive list
*Get Wet Sailing does receive compensation through affiliate links but were not paid to promote any of the above products.