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August 2012

Offshore essentials

Plan ahead for open-water fishing

In March 2009, three friends, two of them NFL players, were lost when their boat capsized during a fishing trip. A fourth was rescued after clinging to the hull in 63-degree water for almost two days.

As an offshore angler, you never want to find yourself unprepared in such a desperate situation. Start by getting advanced training in navigation, seamanship, boat handling and weather before venturing into open waters. Local knowledge and recommendations from experienced captains who run offshore fishing charters can be valuable as well.

Conduct a simple risk assessment before each trip and consider the boat’s capacity, the crew’s experience, and other potential hazards such as the weather, which can change quickly. If any of these risk factors is too high, an offshore trip should be cancelled or modified.

When going offshore, file a float plan to aid rescuers in case you don’t return on time. Leave a note with family members or the marina office listing your boat’s name, passengers’ names, time of departure, destination with coordinates and expected time of return.

Considering the additional hazards that may be present far from shore, be sure to pack appropriate emergency gear:

  • EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon)
  • Visual distress signals (flares, rockets)
  • Life jackets designed for offshore/heavy weather use
  • Personal signaling devices (mirrors, flares, whistles) attached to life jackets
  • Inflatable life raft/life float
  • VHF-FM marine band radio
  • Parts and tools for emergency repairs
  • Emergency food and water, enough for each passenger for several days

–U.S. Coast Guard

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