Technology improvements are always coming along to help make our lives better. It’s no different with the marine industry. Let’s talk about a few tech gadgets out there that can make your boating experience a little safer.

When discussing the topic of boating safety, eventually the subject of flares will come up. Flares are a common and effective means of notifying other vessels in the area that your vessel is in distress.  The downside of flares is that, due to their pyrotechnic characteristics, they can be dangerous if not handled properly. There is also the issue of how to dispose of them properly when they expire.

Did you know that there are electronic flares? They are battery-operated emergency lights that are approved by the Coast Guard as an emergency signal for distressed vessels. These flares are approved for night use so it is still recommended that you carry some type of daytime distress signal such as a red flag aboard your vessel. The flags have several advantages over flares. 

  • They do not expire
  • Signal lasts indefinitely
  • They are purchased once
  • They are waterproof and float

When it is time to replace your flares, you may want to consider getting one of these devices instead.

Have you ever heard of a EPIRB? You may not have. If you spend most of your time boating on Lake Lanier, it is really not necessary that you have one. EPIRB stands for “Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.”  Basically, this is a device that can send a signal to orbiting satellites to indicate exactly where your vessel is in cases of emergency. They are commonly used by trans-oceanic ships or vessels that often go offshore for fishing or recreation. When an EPIRB is obtained, the owner must register it with NOAA.  If and when the device is activated, emergency personnel immediately know who the distress call is from, what type of vessel it is and where it is located.

If you are somewhere offshore and need assistance, the device can be manually activated. It will then relay an emergency signal including your GPS location via satellite to emergency personnel. Some EPIRBs have a feature where they will automatically activate when the device senses that it is in the water.

If you go offshore often, you may want to consider purchasing one of these for your vessel. If going offshore is not typical for you but you have plans to do so for a special trip, it is possible to rent one for the duration of your cruise.

You may not need a EPIRB, but you may need a personal locater beacon. PLBs are very similar to EPIRBs except they are geared toward locating an individual and not a vessel. They are typically smaller so they can be easily attached to clothing or carried in a pocket or backpack but the concept is the same. An individual can activate the device if they are in a remote location and in need of assistance. Unlike the EPIRB, the person needing assistance may be on land or at sea. They are often used by adventurers such as hikers, boaters and off-road enthusiasts.

A couple of years ago, I went on a jet ski trip from Florida to The Bahamas. Even though there were several of us in the group, we each had one of these devices attached to our life vests. Fortunately, there were no incidents that required any of us to use it, but there was a peace of mind in knowing that if something really went wrong, there was an easy, effective way to send a distress signal.

Today’s technology can be a good thing. Especially if it can save your life.