National Safe Boating Week starts on May 16 this year, with a goal of encouraging all boaters to be more responsible and wear a life jacket out on the water. And because the event happens in spring, right before the summer boating season in much of the country, it’s a great time to take an inventory of gear that can help keep everyone safe in an emergency—or, even better, help to avoid emergencies altogether.
An often-overlooked piece of gear that can need upgrading is binoculars. Often, boaters will buy a pair and use them for a decade or longer, not realizing that newer models can be a better tool. Bushnell, for instance, has the Forge line that includes a model with 15×56 magnification ($799). “The 15×56 could be very popular to the marine community, as it provides additional magnification and field of view to help scan the horizon, view wildlife, or to help identify nautical markers or maritime signal flags on commercial or military vessels,” says Bushnell communications coordinator Vic Ziliani.
Also worth a look for an upgrade are the life jackets stowed on any boat. Designs have come a long way in terms of comfort, making newer life jackets more likely to be worn, especially by people who want freedom to move around.
Spinlock’s Deckvest 6D life jacket (about $295), which became available in March, is intended to be “as much a piece of sportswear as a piece of safety equipment,” according to the company. Its features include automatic inflation and an optional harness-release system that lets the boater disconnect from a safety line by releasing a lever. The idea is to give a man overboard a way to disconnect from the boat if he’s being dragged through the water.
And in the digital-safety-device category, ACR Electronics has the ResQLink 400 personal locator beacon ($309). It’s buoyant, has a strobe light, and uses GPS and satellite technology to relay the boater’s position to search-and-rescue teams. The multifunction clip is designed to let boaters wear the PLB however they’re most comfortable.
As with life jackets, when safety and comfort meet, every boater wins.