Must Have Boat Accessories and Essentials
Are you contemplating the purchase of a new or used boat? Perhaps you’ve already found your dream boat, and you need to figure out the best places to mount or store you fishing boat accessories.
Whether it’s your first or the latest in a long line, there are a few necessary items that are vital to any floating vessel’s operation and safety.
A good checklist of the essentials is crucial for any on-the-water activity, and then there is a second, ever-expanding list that we’ll call “accessories.” These are things that seem to make any boating adventure more enjoyable.
Sometimes accessories slip over to the essential side, and it can be a matter of opinion about defining the terms and how best to distinguish between the two.
Everything having to do with the propulsion, navigation, or safety of a vessel is deemed essential. Therefore, my definition of an accessory is anything that makes a boat trip more convenient, comfortable, or fun.
If you want to see for yourself the vast array of choices in each category, a trip to your nearest West Marine to browse their extensive collection of nautical gear might cause that list to grow a little longer. They have over 200 stores scattered across North America, so locating one near you should be easy.
Must Have Boat Accessories
Once you’ve decided on your perfect boat, you will need to make a list of things that will stay on board at all times and where best to store them. Let’s start by listing a few things to ensure everyone is safe and happy on the water:
First Aid Kit
Add a little water to the deck with a bit of wave action, and you have the perfect recipe for a few bumps and bruises. The addition of a filet knife for cut bait, along with a few sharp hooks, and it doesn’t take long to realize a well-stocked safety kit is a must. In addition, learning to self-extract a fishhook is a highly recommended and relatively simple procedure.
Since medical problems can happen quickly, ensure someone on board has the necessary training and supplies to provide immediate attention for the most common injuries. Be sure to have emergency contacts, such as poison control, readily available, along with a bottle of Syrup of Ipecac – in case of accidental poisoning. Thankfully, most injuries will be minor, but a proper first aid kit could save a life.
Fire on a boat can be a life-threatening emergency, especially if far from shore. So first, protect your vessel and passengers with an up-to-date fire extinguisher. In addition, contact your local fire department for some hands-on advice and training, just in case.
Also, check out the newer technologies that can detect fuel leaks and automatically shut down your engine.
Another excellent product is the new ball extinguishers that are mounted in an enclosed engine compartment to disperse a 360-degree dry chemical spray if a fire breaks out.
Life Jackets and Throwable Life Preservers (Type 4)
Everyone on board must have a life jacket that is properly sized, in good condition, and readily accessible.
Also, kids under eight must always wear their life jackets unless in an enclosed cabin.
In addition, boats 16 feet in length or longer must have one Type IV (Throwable) U. S. Coast Guard-approved PFD on board that’s readily accessible.
Small Life Raft
A small life raft is a boating accessory that you may never have to use but you’ll be thankful you have it should the need arise.
You never know when an extra length of rope will come in handy. So, stow away at least one bundle, and you’ll most likely be amazed at how quickly you’ll find hundreds of uses for it.
Whether you’re keeping your boat in position to fish or to just relax, a good anchor is a must have for any boat.
Perfect for protecting your boat from damage anytime you tie up to a dock or another boat, a good set, or two, of fenders is a must for your boat.
Emergency Signal Flares
If you get stranded on the water, a dependable signal flare is one of the more critical rescue items. It should give off both thick smoke and light to make the projectile visible both day and night.
In addition, if your communications fail, it might be your only backup if you and your crew are stranded.
Flip Lock Drain Plug
Keeping a spare drain plug on hand is cheap insurance against losing the one you have.
If you know boating, you know the need for minor repairs can arise at a moments notice. Having a tool kit stowed away with a selection of wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers and more, will have you prepared to take on any task. An extensive kit that allows you to tackle rigging and deck work to engine and electronics repairs is the ideal addition to your boat.
Manual Bilge Pump
Have a good, manual bilge pump on your boat. You don’t want to be stuck scooping water out of the boat with cups or buckets, if your bilge pump goes out.
A Sharp Knife
At least one good quality, sharp knife is essential for every boat, from cutting bait to cutting an unwanted rope off your prop. Keep your knife in its sheath and safely stored where children won’t have easy access. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest in a couple of them since knives aren’t always where they seem to be needed and have a tendency to get temporarily “lost”.
Also, carry a sharpener and keep a fine edge on your blades. Statistics verify that the increased effort required in cutting with a dull knife is the cause of many accidents.
Mask And Fins
You may need to hop in and take care of an issue that requires you to see underwater. A good set of fins and a mask will be very handy, should the need present itself.
Small Oxygen Tank
And for any job that may require you to be underwater for longer than you can hold you breathe, having a small oxygen tank on your boat is a great idea.
Almost everyone carries electronic devices these days, which don’t play too well with water. This means, every boat needs a dry bag. Being surrounded by water, you absolutely want to protect any electronics and valuables you have for being soaked. Having a place to store phones, wallets, cameras, or anything else you don’t want getting wet is a must.
2-Way Satellite Communication
If you take your boat out far enough that you can no longer see land, a 2-way satellite communication device is an essential boat accessory. It allows you to stay connected to family, friends and colleagues whenever you’re outside of cellular range, and even gives you direct communications with Search & Rescue services in case of a life-threatening emergency.
Rechargeable Handheld Spotlight
A rechargeable handheld spotlight is a great accessory to have on your boat. Perfect for any trip that starts in or ends up with no daylight, a handheld spotlight with high powered beam that lasts for several hours will help safely guide you in the darkest conditions. Be sure to go with a waterproof spotlight, in the event it is dropped overboard or needs to be used in the rain.
Hopefully you are never in a position of distress that requires you to be found. That being said, you should prepare for any scenario. Having an emergency position indicating radiobeacon, or EPIRB, on your boat could be a literal lifesaver should you ever be in a position on the water where you are lost and need to be found. You know the saying…better safe than sorry.
Handheld VHF/GPS Radio
It’s a good idea to have a backup communication device on your boat. Having a handheld VHF radio that also has GPS capabilities will come in handy, in the event that your main electronics go down. You need to be able to radio for help in times of distress. These radios are used for boat-to-boat or boat-to-Coast Guard communication and there are specific channels you should use for each situation.
Motion Sickness Relief
Even the most experienced sailors can get seasick every once in a while. A wearable motion sickness device that adjusts to your needs is perfect for avid boaters. You’ll want to keep a supply of motion sickness pills on your boat, as well. You may never need them but the first passenger who gets seasick will be genuinely grateful.
The sun can be a nemesis to our skin, eyes, and equipment. Combine a few bugs with sweat, and you have a recipe for an unhappy crew.
Therefore, a ready supply of sunscreen and bug spray is vital to any trip. Always keep one formulated for kids and adults on the boat, and make sure to replace them every year.
Sealable Trash Can
Having a trash can that you can seal up is a good idea. You don’t want cans, water bottles, or any other trash flying around you boat and, definitely, not flying overboard.
Cool Boat Accessories
One’s imagination is about the only limitation in this category:
West Marine carries salt-water-resistant wired and Bluetooth audio systems from FUSION to Sony. Add satellite radio, and you can choose a tune for any occasion.
The advent of modern LED lights and Bluetooth technology makes adding and controlling lights easy for any boat owner. Accent lights placed under rear decks or flush-mounted options can turn your nighttime boating trips into a brighter, more colorful experience.
This category of fun boat accessories has enough options to satisfy everyone, whether it’s a relaxing float on a water mat, a tube tube ride, snorkeling, or even spearfishing.
Foam Water Mat
A marine-grade stainless grill with push-button ignition is an excellent addition for larger vessels. Dropping anchor at days-end in a quiet cove and firing up the grill is a great way to watch the sunset.
For sheer portability, the Cabo Grill is a great choice, with folding legs for dockside or camping use, as well as pedestal and rail mount options. West Marine sells both the gas and electric versions along with covers, padded carrying cases, and various mounts.
Electric or ice? The number of passengers and length of your trip will determine the size and number of coolers needed. Remember, your cooler’s storage capacity will be reduced by 30-50% if using ice.
Many newer electric coolers have dual-zone cooling to take the place of a portable refrigerator. In addition, some models can utilize 12-24 DC or A/C voltage.
Chart Plotters/Fish Finders
West Marine carries an extensive line of units designed for ocean and inshore use. Not only will the newer units show where you are and where you’re headed, but everything between you and the bottom with near-photographic imaging.
The better models are able to automatically plot the shortest and safest course based on the boat’s draft, beam and height; creating a route around a landmass, shoals and other fixed navigational hazards for a trouble-free cruise.
Also, many units can wirelessly connect to your trolling motor, radar, and even your music, from a convenient HD screen, or your phone.
So even if you don’t have a list, head over to your nearest West Marine and discuss how to define accessories with their knowledgeable staff.
West Marine carries everything from boat bumpers to blenders to help make your next trip safer and more enjoyable.
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