The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.”

Well, folks, Spring has sprung and my calendar chimed in time to check my safety equipment. Coincidentally, a customer stopped by Sunshine Ace Hardware this week because he needed to “gear up” with safety items for a new boat he recently purchased. His visit timed perfectly with my reminder, so this month’s Fishing Blog will deviate a bit from fishing tackle and techniques to remind us about the importance of safety on, in and around the water.

Think about it: how often do we remember to check our gear? Is it up to date, fresh and in working order? Well, I do it prior to each trip because when you’re taking remote runs down south, safety and potential self-rescue is real. As most know, I have an 18-foot skiff, so space is at a premium. Therefore, my choices are efficient and streamlined, but 100% specific to what I need. It’s worth noting that requirements vary for boats of differing sizes, so use this article as a gentle reminder to check requirements that apply to your boat.

So, working from the outside in… Let’s start with the trailer. Inside my truck are a couple of “Oh Crap Kits.” These are simply two 5-gallon buckets that fit neatly into my truck bed. In one bucket, I have two spare greased and ready hubs, along with all the tools needed to swap out a hub. In the second bucket, I have the tools to change a trailer tire, including a small air pump, scissor jack and two pieces of 2×4 in case I need to support it on soft ground or extend its reach.

Tip: Remember to check that spare tire pressure regularly. My spare was at 25lbs when I checked it once. Now, I check it every time my truck gets an oil change.

Now to my skiff, which of course contains the essential items: first aid kit, life jackets, a throwable, flares and fire extinguisher. In addition, I keep spare batteries for electronics, jumper cables, extra drain plugs, fuses, a boat key and safety lanyard. Lighting also is important. I keep a powerful compact flashlight to help navigate if needed and head lamps for most of my general lighting needs in the dark (they free up my hands and are pretty darn bright). Additionally, I have another “Oh Crap Kit” in the front hatch. It contains a spare prop for my outboard and the tools needed to swap out the prop if necessary. It’s better to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it. With Florida being Florida, I bring extra water, snacks and a couple of rain jackets.

Many of us have a GPS and rely on it heavily for navigation. However, electronics can be fallible, so I installed a compass on the helm and keep NAV charts folded in my hatch as backup — that’s old school redundancy. For signaling, I carry a handheld VHF and flares as required, but also an electronic floating flare, daytime signal aids (horn, whistle and small mirror) and a Coast Guard-approved 3×5 plastic orange flag.

One item that goes with me everywhere, even on friends’ boats when invited, is my Garmin InReach Communicator. This little palm-sized deal is literally a life saver. It works off the Iridium satellite network, so communication is instant and used in conjunction with your cell phone to text loved ones or search and rescue agencies. Folks, I’ll share an example of how this one device saved a friend’s life when on a remote trip deep in the ‘Glades with no cell service. He experienced a medical emergency and the Park Service boat was three hours out, so they opted for an airlift. From the moment they activated the SAR button to him being at an ER was just 45 minutes.Hope this helps, my friends. Be safe and make memories!!!

About the Author


Joe Garcia is the Brand Fishing Ambassador at Sunshine Ace Hardware.

Contact Joe for information on the hottest new fishing gear in stock, local fishing tips and more: