Let's keep houseboating safe!

Published online: Mar 04, 2013 Feature Brandon Barrus
Viewed 2008 time(s)

Houseboats are safe, but are you educated on what makes them safe? Here at Houseboat magazine, we're dedicated to making sure not only that everyone has a great time on their houseboats, but that everyone gets home safely, too. To that end, we've compiled these tips to help your time on the water be as relaxing and stress-free as possible.

Water belongs on the outside, not inside

 It's a long-held superstition by seamen that water inside your craft is a harbinger of doom. Don't let a leaky hull or intense storm sink or capsize your boat: have a bilge pump ready. The pictured manual bilge pump from West Marine will handle most-sized water mishaps until a more permanent solution can be found. This bilge pump is easy to use, and features a no-pinch handle, to allow for continuous pumping without pain. With how easy it is to store this bilge pump, there's no reason not to have one on board at all times.

Carbon monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can quickly incapacitate and even kill those who inhale it. It enters your bloodstream through breathing, and the symptoms of dizziness, weakness, light-headedness and irritated eyes can often be confused with heatstroke or dehydration. Carbon monoxide can find its way into your houseboat by poorly ventilated engines, or through wind blowing exhaust in through windows or doors. To detect, and therefore avoid, carbon monoxide, you need to install a CO detector. Kidde has been making CO alarms with electrochemical sensing technology for years, and all of Kidde's CO alarm products-from basic units to premium CO alarms-include the company's patented Nighthawk electrochemical CO sensor.  On the pictured model, the readout will show the level of CO, which can indicate a low leak or issue before the levels get to emergency status.

Know where you are

Knowing where you are on a big lake can mean the difference between making it to the dock before a storm blows in and getting caught when the winds start to blow. For navigation, we looked to Garmin for a marine unit perfect for a houseboater's needs. They suggested the GPSMAP 700 series of units, which is  Garmin's first and only seven-inch touchscreen plotter, so it gives the feeling and functionally of a networked product, but with a much smaller footprint. There are different versions-the GPSMAP 720 comes with a worldwide basemap, and the 740 adds coastal charts of the US and Bahamas. Additionally, each of those two models comes with a sounder version, which is standard with a 1- kW-capable sonar transceiver to define fish targets and underwater structure.


Being in an unfamiliar lake can be an intimidating experience. Even if you are at your home body of water, you may run into a situation that requires some outside assistance. For times like these, a radio can be a lifesaver. This West Marine VHF radio reflects the latest in Class D Digital Selective Calling (DSC) features and includes DSC calling with Position send, Request and test calling. Built to withstand the toughest of environments, it meets a high submersible standard, features a microphone with a non-slip rubber grip, and provides a large backlit full dot matrix-display for easy viewing. More information on how to make an emergency call can be found at http://boatsafe.com/nauticalknowhow/radio.htm.

Stop fires as soon as they start

Prevention is key to avoiding fire damage to your houseboat, but in the case where flames have broken out already, you want to have a fire extinguisher handy. I know, it seems counterintuitive to bring a fire extinguisher into a situation where you are surrounded by water, but trust me, you'd rather put the grease fire out with chemicals designed to do the job, rather than water, which will spread the flames. Kidde's line of marine fire extinguishers feature dry chemical models that cover most hazards associated with watercraft. All of these also feature corrosion-resistant, attractive white finish. Disposable and rechargeable models are available. All models come with retention brackets and meet U.S.C.G approvals.

Kidde suggests you remember the PASS method of extinguishing a fire.

P - Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you.

A - Aim low at the base of the fire.

S - Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly to discharge the extinguishing agent. (When the agent first hits the fire, the fire may briefly flare up. This should be expected.)

S - Sweep the nozzle from side to side, moving carefully toward the fire. Keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire.

Spend these colder months brushing up on your safety knowledge and preparedness, and let's all make the summer of 2012 the safest one on record for houseboaters everywhere.

For more information:












West Marine



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