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17 things you should never leave the dock without

17 things you should never leave the dock without

Never leave the dock without …

1. Engaging your brain. Remember, if something goes wrong you can’t get out and walk. I know one case of someone walking on water; you don’t qualify.

2. Knowledge of the Rules of the Road. Obey the navigation rules (COLREGS) and apply them. But always remember: Mass has the right of way. Large vessels often can’t see you within a quarter-mile off the bow, and even if they could they can’t stop or turn in that distance.

3. Remembering common courtesies while anchoring, mooring or docking.

4. Current paper charts to back up your GPS/chart plotter. Make it a habit to periodically plot your position on the chart, though this assumes you have at least the basic knowledge to use a chart. If that’s a problem, contact your local Power Squadron or Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla and take a course.

5. A reliable, adjusted and accurate compass (nothing magnetic near it).

6. Decent binoculars. I recommend nitrogen-filled 7x50s. Make sure they have good optics, and will effectively transmit light under conditions of restricted visibility. You’ve got to be able to spot aids to navigation, landmarks and the like.

7. A powerful, battery-powered, water-resistant flashlight. Also consider a 12-volt searchlight.

8. Someone on board who can competently operate the boat if something happens to the skipper. And don’t forget to practice emergency drills.

9. PFDs that you’ll actually wear. Don’t just make do with the minimum regulatory requirements; think about how useful the life jacket you’re not wearing will be in an emergency. And make sure all children wear a life jacket at all times on deck.

10. A truly submersible (IPX-7 or JIS-7 standards) hand-held VHF radio on your person, especially if you fish or boat alone. Cell phones won’t cut it if you end up in the water.

11. An easy way to get back on board.

12. Sound signaling devices that will last longer than those aerosol noisemakers. Remember that in conditions of restricted visibility most signals must be sounded at intervals not to exceed two minutes. If possible, get a fixed-mount VHF that incorporates fog signals and a loudspeaker.

13. Clothing that will keep you warm even when it’s wet, especially in early spring. Cotton won’t do; it stays wet and robs you of body heat. Wool keeps you warm but is very heavy when soaked. Polyester fleece jackets and vests are best.

14. Foul-weather gear to keep you dry and act as a wind breaker. With breathable gear you won’t sweat, and even the lightest-weight articles are waterproof. Remember hypothermia can occur even on warm days.

15. A sharp knife. A serrated blade will cut through line faster than even a very good smooth-edge blade.

16. Wire cutters, crimpers, crimp connectors and red-and-black or yellow 14 gauge primary wire. Also, carry a few suitably sized bulldog clips and pliers in case a cable lets go, as well as suitably sized hose clamps and hose. While you’re at it, attach soft wood plugs to every seacock and through-hull.

17. Adequate ground tackle. Don’t stint on anchor rode. You can’t have too much money or too much anchor rode. And be sure you have an anchor that’s suitable for the bottom where you’ll be dropping the hook. No anchor is suitable for all bottoms, so you may need two different types, unless you always frequent the same anchorage and know the bottom composition.