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Summer is boating season, and the Orlando Business Journal has some tips on what to bring on board before you head for the water. Here is an in-depth look at these boating essentials.

1. EPIRB: emergency position indicating radio beacon

An EPIRB is a device that emits a distress beacon in the event of an emergency. The signal transmits on the international distress frequency at 406 MHz, and rescuers such as the U.S. Coast Guard can detect the signal via satellite.

A new EPIRB should be registered with the National Beacon Registration Database available from the NOAA Satellite and Information Service website. Not only does the FCC require registration, doing so could save your life. The Coast Guard and other agencies can locate a registered beacon up to several hours faster than an unregistered one. When a boat is in trouble, an hour can determine life or death.

If you have an EPIRB from several years ago, check to make sure that it transmits at 406 MHz. The FCC has banned the older Class A, B, and S devices that transmit at 121.5 MHz.

2. Portable ship-to-shore radio

One of the best safety items to have on board is a ship-to-shore or VHF radio. Many portable models are floatable and waterproof, so you can operate them when the unexpected happens.

The Coast Guard constantly monitors VHF radio communications and can track your signal if you get in trouble. Channel 16 is used for official bulletins, distress calls and safety alerts. Your radio will come with a list of channels and their approved uses.

3. Ring buoy

These buoys are designed to be thrown to someone having trouble in the water. They can be used with a lifeline, pole, smoke signal or locator light. The Coast Guard approves ring buoys, which are classified as Type IV personal flotation devices. You want to buy a life buoy that is USCG-approved. Rings made from cork or balsa wood are no longer acceptable and should be replaced with newer models.

Most ring buoys can be thrown to someone who is conscious and within 40 feet of the boat. However, some Type IV devices are not meant to be used for children or non-swimmers or in rough water. When shopping for a ring buoy, make sure to choose the most versatile device for your needs and boating habits.

For extra protection on your boat or dock, consider a life-buoy storage cabinet with a lifeline.

4. Cell phone and laptop

Cell phones are a must for communication, and smartphones now have useful and fun boating apps. Make sure your phone has a waterproof case and is stowed where young hands can’t accidentally toss it overboard.

Your instinct may be to leave the laptop at home, but a portable computer can be a handy navigation device. The Internet provides real-time access to tidal and weather information, trip planners, GPS features, and the latest news for your area. The laptop or other mobile device, along with a spare battery, should be kept in a sturdy waterproof case when not in use. Water-resistant keyboard and screen covers are also available.

A word of caution is to use cell phones and laptops responsibly while boating. Many boating accidents, including a deadly collision last year that killed two tourists, involve people who were distracted by cell phone conversations, texting or surfing. The common-sense rules of the road apply to the water as well.

5. Life jackets and supplies for an extended trip

Your boat should stow enough life jackets for the maximum number of people it can carry. You could always have a last-minute guest or pick up other passengers from a distress situation.

Just as with hiking trips, it’s good practice to pack enough food and water to last three times as long as the planned outing. Dehydration sets in very quickly, so any delay means you will need that extra water. Food is fuel for the physical endurance needed to survive in the water. Even short trips on calm water can become an Olympic challenge if something happens to the boat or someone on it.

With these five essentials on board, you can relax and enjoy your trip knowing that you are prepared for almost anything.

Image Credit: wili_hybrid

Derek is an active blogger. This article is for Lake Hoptacong marine.