Two Suggestions

Lead Line — May 2003
By Richard Thiel

Two Suggestions
Not cheap, but neither is it expensive considering what’s at stake.
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Given the level of expertise PMY readers enjoy, one thing I've always tried to avoid in this magazine is preaching. It just doesn't sit well with readers who have spent an average of 28 years on the water. So I'm not going to preach. But as we head into another boating season, I am going to ask each of you to at least consider two things that affect your safety and that of everyone who comes aboard.

The first thing is an EPIRB. Now before you say to yourself, "I don't need one of those things because I never go offshore," hear me out. An EPIRB is a necessary safety item for anyone who leaves the dock, whether it is on a lake, river, or ocean. Consider it a primary backup to all your other emergency communications equipment. You have spares for everything else aboard, how can you not have a spare emergency location device?

A lot of boaters I talk to say a VHF and a cellphone are all the means they need to call for help. But both of those devices work only if you have time to use them. It's entirely possible that you could face a calamity that happens so quickly, you don't have time to put out a Mayday or make a phone call. It's also entirely possible that a particular calamity disables your electrical system, rendering your VHF useless. As for cellphones, we all know that coverage is spotty at best, and even when you do get a good signal and reach 911, you're hardly guaranteed of receiving help. A few months back, four teenagers decided to take a boat ride on Long Island Sound, never leaving sight of land. They got into trouble and called 911 on a cellphone. Their garbled call was received, but the authorities couldn't triangulate off their signal, and all four drowned.

You can buy an automatically activated (the only kind to get) EPIRB from most any discount marine store for around $1,000. No, that's not cheap, but neither is it expensive when you consider what's at stake. Besides, you can always take it with you when you trade up. An EPIRB also adds a distinctly salty ambiance to your boat, and the antenna makes a great place to hang your hat.

You'll be happy to know that my second idea will cost you virtually nothing. All I'm asking is that you make sun protection an important and integral part of your boating this year. Melanoma is nothing short of an epidemic, and most of us have either been its victim or know someone who has. I wrote an editorial about the need for sun protection afloat more than a year ago, and since then I've had two melanomas removed. Two of my coworkers are now going to my dermatologist, and he's been treating their bodies like a duffer would treat a golf course. This is a serious problem, especially for boaters. If you, your loved ones, or your guests are lying out on the sunpad for more than a few minutes a day, you all are toying with disaster. And yes, that applies to you olive-skinned folk, too.

Common sense sun protection is not antithetical to fun afloat. Judicious use of sunscreen and protective clothing and staying in the shade whenever possible will do the trick. Believe me, it's no fun having someone carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Okay, the lecture is over. Now go have a great season.

This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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