As you become an intermediate paddler and begin to take difficult, more exposed trips, your equipment list must grow. All equipment should be of high quality. A broken paddle is useless, a non waterproof VHF radio that gets wet is dangerous, and a semi drysuit won't keep you dry. The price difference between low and high quality is small.
Remember that safety equipment does not replace skills and common sense. For signaling equipment to work it must be accessible. We carry most signaling equipment in our PFD. Extra flares and smoke is carried in a day hatch to back up the minimum that we have in our PFD.
Much of the following information is about VHF radios. While we use and believe these are useful tools, we have had many so called waterproof radios die, when needed. Many people carry VHF radios, but don't know how to use them. Study this following information and start listening to the radio to hear how others use them. We normally carry our radios in day hatches, but will put them on the deck when we feel we might need them. Even most waterproof models should be carried in a waterproof radio bag. Only the highest quality (and most expensive) radios will survive constant Eskimo rolling. Always clean off the radio after salt water use.
The following is from the CG website
Visual Distress Signals (VDS)
All recreational boats 16 feet and over (with certain exceptions), or any boat carrying 6 or less passengers (for hire) on the coastal waters of the United States are required to carry Coast Guard approved Visual Distress Signals (VDS). Boats less than 16 feet are not required to have signals for day, but must have signals that can be used at night, between sunset and sunrise. Several types of approved signals are available, but only one type for day and one type for night, in the number indicated, are required.
It is clear that these signals may be all that stands between safety and disaster. The Coast Guard recommends that these signals be carried aboard your vessel and stowed in a safe but readily accessible location. VDS are usable for three years from the date of manufacture (stamped on the signal) and should be properly disposed of and replaced by new VDS after this date.
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