Keep your extinguisher in top condition so it’s ready to use. Once a year, turn it and shake it to prevent he dry chemicals from caking up on the bottom.
you are is to try and climb back into a boat.
Without help. (A tip? Don’t allow cameras.
Your ungainly performance could end up on
n People die frequently in boating accidents
because it can be extremely difficult to get
someone back aboard without a ladder.
Try yours, adjust it for your boat, and learn
how it works before an emergency occurs.
Technique trumps strength when reboarding, so practice. If you don’t have a ladder,
try trailing a dock line that’s reachable
from the water. Placing a simple loop in a
line, which you can use as a step, is often
adequate for getting back in a small boat.
n Ladders that extended 20 inches under
water and had three or fewer steps were
preferred. Consider your boat’s hull shape
and freeboard; a ladder that works well for
a dinghy may not work on a different boat.
Floating ladders were the least preferred.
And Did You Know?
We’ve field-tested a lot of different kinds of
boat gear, most you aren’t required to have.
But in an emergency, not having them could
lead to trouble — anchors, kill switches, bilge
pumps, spotlights, even the ubiquitous duct
tape! Here are some important nuggets
from our tests:
n In our nav-light tests, Light Emitting
Diode (LED) lights performed better, and
were visible at a greater distance, than traditional incandescent lights. LED lights are
well suited for hard-to-reach installations
because the bulbs last for so long. Don’t
use a replacement LED bulb in a nav light
designed for incandescent bulbs; it most
likely will not be as visible as it should be,
putting you at risk of not being seen at night.
OCTOBER | NOVEMBER 2011
n We found that bilge pumps don’t pump
nearly as many gallons as their labels say
because real-life conditions vary widely from
test conditions. Type and length of hose in
your installation, the location, and power
supply can all diminish output, so buy the
highest-capacity pump that can fit in your
space. Better yet, install more than one.
n For binoculars, price makes a differ-
ence. Higher-quality glasses performed bet-
ter, especially in low light. Testing confirmed
that 7x50 glasses are the optimal size for
most boating situations, offering a good
compromise on image magnification and
stability. That said, image-stabilized bin-
oculars, even the low-end versions, provided
a huge improvement over traditional bin-
oculars. We found that the human hand
just can’t hold binoculars steady enough for
most maritime applications because of swell,
engine vibration, and speed.
n “Green” boat soaps and cleaners are not
always as environmentally friendly as they
claim. How you use the product can deter-
mine its environmental impact as much as
the product itself. Rinse your boat often
with fresh water, use full-strength cleaners
to treat trouble spots and stains, but stick to
a diluted solution for overall boat cleaning.
n We found that with as little as four hours’
exposure to sun, wind, glare, vibration, and
motion on the water, “boater’s hypnosis” is
produced, a fatigue that slows reaction time
almost as much as if a person were drunk.
Add an alcoholic drink (wait, this looked like
it was going to be a fun test!) and you’re at
high risk of falling overboard, or off the dock
(which was not so fun).
n When buying duct tape, look for high cloth
count/content, adhesive-coating weight, and
overall thickness, which generally translates
to the best adhesion and wear. If thickness is
the only thing you can easily determine, go
with the thickest tape you can find.
n Employing an engine cut-off switch may
be one of the simplest things you can do
to protect you and your crew from falling
overboard. Lanyards are a must on smaller
boats, especially if you operate by yourself.
n We found that when you put a rope to
use, or even change the direction the line
travels (i.e., wrapping it around a piling),
you reduce its strength. Knotting or cleating
a line reduced its breaking strength by half.
Manufacturers recommend a working load
of 10-20 percent of rated strength for rope
in good condition in non-critical applica-
tions, where no dynamic loading is present.
But virtually all loads on a boat are dynamic,
so buy the longest, strongest lines you can.
n You’re not required to carry a VHF radio,
but you need one. We found cell phones
don’t cut it for all boating situations. In
most emergencies, a VHF may be your only
hope for help because Coast Guard, marine
police, and BoatU.S. Towing Services all
monitor distress frequencies.
In addition to writing about our
findings in BoatU.S. Magazine,
we also create videos of our tests.
Read more conclusions from our
BoatU.S. Foundation about bilge
pumps, weather services, electronic
charting, green cleaners, and much