by Conrad & Judy Kreuter
Q: Dear Boat Talk: I am in the process of buying a new boat, somewhere between 20 to 23 feet. This will be my first boat. I know the boat comes with the required Coast Guard and Mooring packages. What additional equipment do you suggest? FT, Queens, NY.
A: Dear FT: Welcome to the wonderful world of boating. Boating will be a very relaxing and enjoyable sport especially if you have the right equipment on board to aid you. Here is a list starting with the most basic which we feel every boater should have. Remember that this equipment, although not required by law, is very essential for safe boating.
Compass: This is your basic sense of direction. Since there are no street signs on the water, the compass will assist you, along with your charts, in going to or coming from your destination. Most compasses are illuminated, (expect for the smallest dashboard variety) and should be connected to your navigation lights for night time viewing.
Charts: As mentioned above, charts are the street maps of the sea. Navigation charts contain a wealth of information such as water depth, compass headings, location of buoys, channels, and prominent features on land such as radio tower, water towers and inlets. If you don’t know how to read a chart, take a boating course in the off season. The Coast Guard recommends you file a float plan with someone ashore who will notify the proper authorities should you be overdue.
Water separating fuel filter: This valuable filter traps water along with any debris before it can go from your gas tank into your engine. Water can occur in the fuel from condensation or by simply forgetting to secure the gas cap.
Gauges: A basic set of gauges should include; fuel, tachometer, temperature, voltmeter, speedometer, and hour meter. For outboard powered boats, the most important gauge one should have is a water pressure gauge. This gauge measures the pressure of cooling water circulation through the engine. It is an early warning indicator of a potential serious overheat condition. If you should pick up eel grass, a plastic bag, or have kissed a sand bar, this gauge will show no water pressure coming trough before the engine starts to overheat.
Depth Finder: This electronic marvel works with sonar technology to indicate the depth of water while you are underway. It is a real necessity when you are in shallow or unfamiliar waters. Some units have additional fish finder capability which displays fish swimming below your boat. A really good fish finder displays and “H” next to the fish symbol to indicate if that fish is hungry! Of course these units are very hard to find.
VHF radio: This is your communication device on the water. It is used by boaters to talk from boat to boat. The Coast Guard monitors channel 16 for emergency situations and recommends every boater keep it turned on and tuned to channel 16 while underway. You can also get current weather forecasts and updated boating information.
Canvas: Canvas should be used for two primary purposes; the first for shade, and the second to keep water out of the boat and off of sensitive instruments and electronics.
Dual Battery: A second battery is like insurance especially if you plan to go offshore. You may never use it, but is nice to know it is there. If you have a full complement of electronics, it is a definite necessity!
Kickers: A kicker is a small outboard motor which is used to propel the boat in the event the primary engine fails. It can also be used for trolling. Once again, it’s like having insurance.
Anchor Windlass: For those of you who can’t count on their spouse to throw out that anchor, and anchor windlass will make your anchoring chores easier. The anchor windlass is an electric motor that automatically lowers and raises the anchor from the cockpit. On larger boats, it is especially useful.
Trailer Winch: If you are planning to trailer your boat, a power trailer winch is another must have item. It is an electric motor with a cable that hooks on to the bow eye of the boat and pulls the boat from the water onto the trailer. It eliminated all the manual cranking and cussin’ after a long day on the water.