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Jun 02, 2020

Going solo out on the ocean provides welcome respite from the whir of suburban life. I find peace amid the salt air, coastal currents and creatures of the sea.

Yet in such complacency lies danger. A sudden slip, the wake of a nearby vessel or extending to gaff a fish can send you overboard with no crew to muster a rescue. If the boat’s in gear, you’re toast. Yet even if the boat’s out of gear, it can quickly drift away on the wind and current. There’s the yin and yang of solo boating: relaxing on one hand, rife with danger on the other. Here are precautions to stay safe as a solo act.

Wear a Life Jacket

When skippering by myself, I wear an automatic inflatable suspenders-style jacket. This style does not interfere with tending lines, manning the anchor and fishing. In fact, the suspenders are so comfortable, I sometimes forget to take them off before getting in the truck to trailer back home.

Personal Locator

I wear a personal locator beacon (PLB) on my belt when boating solo. When activated, these battery-operated, compact satellite communication devices send out an electronic mayday to rescue agencies such as the US Coast Guard and emit homing signals so that rescuers can zero in on victims. A PLB must be registered with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in order to properly assist rescue agencies.

Handheld DSC VHF

I clip a handheld VHF on my waistband. It’s the waterproof, floating Icom M93D with built-in GPS and DSC. A red button on the back lets you send a DSC distress call to rescue agencies, as well as nearby boats with DSC-equipped VHFs, with your GPS coordinates. And, of course, you can transmit a mayday by voice and converse with rescuers. In order for DSC to function properly, you must register for a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number and enter the information into the VHF. If you already have an MMSI for your boat’s fixed-mount VHF, you can use it for the handheld too.