© St. Petersburg Times, published January 13, 2003
The recent boating tragedy that claimed four lives and the article on hypothermia should cause every boater to assess safety equipment. All recreational boats must carry one personal flotation device (type I, II, III or V) for each person aboard. Commercial boats are required to have one wearable type I PFD for each person aboard. A type I, or offshore life vest, is the most buoyant and will turn most unconscious wearers face up in the water. Types II, III or V are intended for calm, inshore waters and may turn some unconscious wearers face up. Any boat venturing into the Gulf of Mexico should have type I's.
Though not required, a hand-held, submersible VHF radio in a flotation case should also be onboard and kept within reach in case of fire or sinking. The permanently installed VHF will be useless if the wires powering it are burned through or if the boat is resting on the bottom. The hand held will provide communication with a rescuer if a distress call could not be made before exiting the vessel.
A wet suit and beanie guards against hypothermia if the vessel is abandoned. They can be purchased at local dive shops. "Accidents only happen to the other guy" is a common phrase, but you are the other guy to everyone else.
-- Capt. Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2@aol.com.