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Without a doubt, boating is a great way to have fun with your family and friends this holiday season. You can easily get hooked to being out on the water, but you should never leave shore unprepared. Boat safety should be taken seriously by anyone who ventures on a trip aboard a water vessel. According to the United States Coast Guard, there are between 600 and 700 fatalities every year on boating accidents in the country. That's about 13 percent of all offshore accidents. What makes it more alarming is that this number is more than plane crashes, train wrecks, or even bus mishaps. No one should be overconfident about their boating skills because even the most level-headed boaters can get into trouble.
 
 
Here are some of the most important items you should always have aboard.
 
A Float Plan
 
It's always a good idea to devise a float plan, which entails your general direction and an estimated timeline. Be sure to leave your float plan to trusted friends and family who can report to the Coast Guard if you have experienced a delay on your schedule. Your float plan should include information such as planned route, number of people onboard and their respective ages, their medical conditions (if any), and expected fuel and mooring stops.
 
In addition, be sure to precisely describe your boat in your float plan because, during an emergency, rescue teams will need to know what they are looking for. Take note of your boat's name, registration number, its size, and color, which are helpful visuals for rescue teams to follow. Finally, if your boat has unique features such as artwork, be sure to include those as well. Looking for a boat isn't a walk in the park, but if the rescue teams have the necessary information, their jobs become much easier.
 
Life Jackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
 
No one would want to get caught up in an emergency situation, particularly one that involves drowning. Unfortunately, the majority of people who drown in boating incidents have the ability to swim but have become incapacitated in the water. Some of the reasons for their impairment may include injury or unconsciousness, hypothermia, exhaustion, or too heavy clothing.
 
For this reason, it is important that every person on board is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times. Not only is it required by the law, but it could also save you in the event of a life-threatening situation.
 
Take note that every lifejacket should be in good working condition, readily accessible, and of proper size for the intended wearer.
 
Also, if you are taking a vessel that is 16 feet or more in length, you must have at least one USCG-approved throwable personal flotation device on board that is easily accessible.
 
Communication and Navigation Systems
 
In case of an emergency, you can often call for help long before serious rescue is needed and ensure everybody's safety. Make sure you have working communication devices such as VHF radios, marine-grade satellite phones, or at least, mobile phones. However, understand that a mobile phone is not a replacement for a radio since there will not be any signal in the open ocean. Sat phones and GPS are much more useful tools than smartphones when you are offshore. Help is much easier when rescue teams can precisely identify your location with a GPS. Do not forget to keep them waterproofed for safety.
 
In addition to electronic systems, it is also a good idea to have a paper backup of your route in case you need to evacuate. This enables you to estimate your course for swimming or life-craft paddling to the shortest distance to land. Make sure you also carry a portable compass and a waterproof chart to help you find the quickest trip to safety.
 
First Aid Kit
 
A well-stocked first aid kit on board will help you resolve minor injuries and support more serious injuries until professional medical help arrives. Include these items in your kit:
 
band-aids
latex gloves
scissors
pain relievers
 seasickness medicines
anti-infection cream
gauze
sunscreen
 
By keeping these items in one location, small accidents can be taken care of immediately. Finally, ensure that you have the knowledge of administering first aid; enroll in a first aid class before heading out to sea.