Safety devices make great Christmas gifts
Are you reading this column on Christmas Eve morning, while thinking you should be out doing some last-minute shopping for your favorite boater?
If so, perhaps I can help you by listing a few boating accessories I think any boater would love, plus they all have the added benefit of being potential lifesavers.
For instance, no boater should go offshore without the ability to communicate with other boats, and particularly in an emergency, with the Coast Guard. This calls for a VHF marine radio and fortunately they have become very inexpensive in recent years.
The most versatile radios are the battery-operated handheld types that range from the most basic for about $100; to those high-end VHF's with an integrated mapping GPS (Global Positioning System) for around $400.
Of course, if you were thinking of something at a stocking-stuffer price, you might consider a $27 waterproof cellular phone case, as nearly everyone relies on a cell phone for most near-shore communications today.
Another onboard accessory that no boater should be without is a waterproof flashlight, and redundancy is a good thing. Flashlights range from small, waterproof penlights that sell for less than $20, to powerful, fully submersible handheld lanterns for nearly $300.
Still, if a boater needs lots of light to signal distress, then a flare is much better than any flashlight, and there are several options available. At the low-cost end there are handheld locator and smoke flares for about $20, and at the pricier end there are kits that include several 12-gage flare rounds and a gun to launch them with for almost $200.
A personal strobe light -- something like a cross between a flashlight and a flare -- could be a lifesaver in the event of a boater going overboard at night. Such devices list for as little as $11 to as much as $125.
That same overboard boater would also be more likely to survive if he or she was wearing a PFD (personal floatation device), yet in the days of the old-fashioned, overstuffed life vests, getting boaters to wear them was always a problem.
Now however, there is a wide selection of Coast Guard-approved inflatable life vests on the market that are so compact they allow for a full range of motion while sailing or fishing and are comfortable to wear all day long.
They are priced between $80 and $200.
A final gift you may want to consider giving your boater this Christmas is a well-provisioned first-aid kit. Many boats (and households, for that matter) have little more than a few band-aids on hand.
A proper medical kit should contain the basic supplies and directions needed to treat such emergencies as bleeding, shock, drowning, burns, blisters, fractures, and sprains. Such kits are available at most marine hardware stores from $28 for a very basic one, to $800 or more for the most comprehensive.
Happy shopping and Mele Kalikimaka!