Building Your Boating Emergency Kit
Summer is in full swing, and beating the heat on the water can be a great way to savor the season. Powerboats, sailboats, pontoons and boats of all types can help bring your summer activities to the next level of fun. But what if you’re away from shore and need to address a medical issue immediately? Keeping a small yet well-stocked first aid kit on your vessel can cover many problems you may run into. While there are many prepackaged kits geared toward camping and outdoor life, you may want to slightly customize your emergency kit if you find it doesn’t completely satisfy your needs. Out on the water, it’s typically not as easy as driving to the corner drug store for extra bandages or ointment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of emergency and first aid items to consider for a travel health kit, and this can serve as a good starting point for what you may want to keep on your boat.
If you have already purchased a kit or need to customize yours a bit, here are some common items that may help you create a well-rounded emergency or first aid kit fit for a day on the water:
- Waterproof bandages
- Antidiarrheal medication
- Eye drops
- Over-the-counter pain reliever
- Motion sickness medication
- Hydrocortisone anti-itch cream
- Prescribed medication: If you take a daily medication, or plan to be on the water long enough to miss a dosage of a medication you take regularly, you’ll likely want to pack it with you for your trip. You may also consider including an epinephrine pen, if you have an allergy and it has been prescribed by your doctor.
- Although there may not be room in your actual first aid kit, you might want to also bring along some essentials for time on the water such as sunscreen and aloe gel for sunburns. According to the American Cancer Society, sunscreen is only the first defense in protecting yourself against the sun’s harmful rays. Hats, sunglasses and ultraviolet-protective clothing can also be effective ways to limit your UV exposure.
- Bug spray might not be the first thing to come to mind as you’re traveling along with a nice breeze flowing by, but once the boat is stopped and you’re anchored or docked for a period of time, insects like mosquitoes can still descend upon you without much warning.
- Going on a longer voyage? Consider building a larger and more robust first aid kit. For specific recommendations, talk to your family physician about items to buy for a larger kit.
If an emergency occurs while you’re out on your boat, it is best to alert the U.S. Coast Guard by hailing it channel 16 of your very high frequency (VHF) radio. Channel 16 is used for distress, safety and calling (the boating term used for ship-to-ship safety communication), according to the Coast Guard’s Navigation Center. The Coast Guard and most coast stations (on-shore maritime radio stations) maintain a listening watch on this channel.
If there are any emergencies that happen while you’re boating on an inland lake or river and within cell phone service coverage, your boat’s radio is likely your best option, according to BoatingSafetyMag.com. In this case, you can also consider using your cell phone to call 911, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for a VHF radio. Having two types of communications devices may increase the probability that [boaters in trouble] will be saved, says BoatingSafetyMag.com.
By planning ahead and preparing a well-stocked emergency kit that suits your needs, you and your family should be able to handle some common issues that may pop up while you’re away from shore.