After finishing the Lone Star Malibu, the only thing left to do was to outfit the boat. It’s a tough balancing act to have everything you need on the boat, but at the same time fit it into limited space and weight allowances. This is magnified on Boaty given the tight storage in the 14-ft hull.
The first stop is to check the equipment carriage requirements for your vessel. The US Coast Guard has requirements based on both the size of your vessel and where you will be operating that vessel. You can find the Coast Guard requirement on a variety of websites, but they are what I would consider the barest of essentials and most states will have additional requirements for safety equipment. For that reason, I would start looking at the equipment requirements for the state in which you will be operating the vessel, which will by default include the USCG requirements.
One of the best safety equipment check lists I’ve seen is the one available from the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which I have reproduced below (click on the image to go to their website). My boats have generally be registered in Colorado or Washington, but spending as much time at Lake Powell as I have I’ve become very familiar with their carriage requirements. I think Utah DNR does a great job of clearly communicating the required equipment, which I can't say for Colorado or Washington.
As you can see from that chart, my 14-ft open runabout with an outboard engine, is required to have the following equipment:
There are other required items outlined in this chart, like registration, insurance, navigation lights, etc., but I wouldn’t really consider those equipment. Also, you can see that while my open vessel with no enclosed fuel storage or engine compartment does not require a fire extinguisher (see Note C in the chart), it is recommended; as are a Type IV throw-able PFD and a sound producing device (e.g. horn or whistle). Obviously, as long as it is realistic to store them aboard, I would carry all of these and, in line with the USCG’s motto of Semper Paratus (Always Ready), I generally carry quite a bit more.
For those that don’t want to read an exhaustive description and justification for everything, here is the abbreviated list.
For those wanting to get into the nitty gritty, you're in luck.
I purchased a 4-pack of type II PFDs with a storage bag on Amazon for about $40. I will normally have other life vests aboard, but having this package of four stowed under the nose ensures I’m always in compliance and that we will definitely have enough if worse comes to worse. I also opt for the “strongly recommended” Type IV throw-able PFD, which in my case is a red float cushion that I have rigged with a life line. You can purchase a life line in a throw-able bag, but I opted to make my own using polypropylene line and a cheap mesh bag.
With respect to the bailing device, I have two. A collapsible bucket, which is a great option for and effective bailing device that takes up the minimal amount of room, and a manual bilge pump, which is a lot more effective, though slightly more difficult to stow.
As for auxiliary propulsion, I have two collapsible paddles, which again take up a minimal amount of room, but provide a very realistic alternative propulsion method for a vessel this small.
On the houseboat I went all out with medical supplies, including c-collar and full basic EMT bag, but on a small runabout like Boaty I have to reel it in a bit. I opted for a well-stocked off the shelf boating first aid kit that I bought for my first boat, which will do in a pinch. I'm sure they don't sell that one any longer, but there are no shortage of reasonably priced options on Amazon.
While Boaty does have a horn, I rebuilt it with spare parts from a Harbor Freight horn and I don’t know how much I trust it to be my sound making device. As a result, I carry a rechargeable air horn that can be filled with compressed air and a whistle.
A vessel this small operating on inland and protected waters, is not required to carry any emergency signaling devices. However, if I really need help I don’t want to have to rely on waving my arms up and down at my sides to attract attention. I included a distress flag (a black square over a circle on an orange background), a signal mirror, and a small battery operated strobe light. I also have a spot light that could be used for signaling at night and can be invaluable if you find yourself unexpectedly navigating on a moonless night and needing to pick out unlit buoys…not that I’ve ever done this.
As pointed out in my post about VHF radios, I wouldn’t leave the dock without one, and Boaty is no exception. I carry a small handheld VHF, which may not be the most reliable, but will do the job in a pinch.
A nice little handheld GPS is also nice to have; I threw a Garmin eTrex that I used to use for Geocaching into my boat bag. Most phones will probably do just fine for GPS navigation and there are also plenty of great apps that will turn them into quasi chart-plotters, but more often than not, I find my phone without signal at most lake I frequent (which can inexplicably make GPS apps not work) and thought the added GPS unit wouldn’t be a bad idea…beside, what else am I going to do with it?
A pair of good quality binoculars goes with me on almost every boating journey as well. After spending a few years standing a bridge watch, scrutinizing every navigation marker and passing vessel with my binoculars has become second nature. After years of using Fujinon on the bridge, I purchased a more consumer grade version (Fujinon Marinier WPC-XL) for myself, which I’ve been happy with. The important thing in choosing binoculars for the marine environment is the optics, which should be about 7 x 50. The objective diameter (50) means they have good performance in low light conditions, producing a sharp, bright image, and the 7 time magnification is ideal as they are easy to hold steady on a moving platform, like a boat. I wear glasses and the generous eye relief of these binoculars allows me to use them without difficulty while wearing my glasses, which is something to consider if you are likewise visually challenged. This model includes a compass, which is a nice feature for approximating the bearing to objects you are viewing.
The rest is pretty much just general boating gear; mooring lines for tying off to the dock, fenders for same, an anchor and line for…well, anchoring, and a skier down flag for…hmm, now that I think of it I don’t think Boaty has quite enough oomph to pull a skier, but maybe a tube…very slowly….yeah, I could probably take that out.
The final item on my list is a tool kit, but that is a whole post in and of itself. Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
Brent Pounds has over a decade of experience in the maritime industry and has been involved in recreations boating since he was a child. See the About section for more detailed information.