Yachting Gear: Necessities and Nice-to-Haves
Once you've pulled the metaphorical trigger and purchased your yacht, what comes next? Before you get out on the water, you should stock up on all the nautical necessities, some of which are required by law, and some of which are creature comforts.
Everyone knows that you need to have lifejackets on board. But how many you need and where to store them differs greatly from boat to boat. Every recreational craft must have at least one US Coast Guard-approved PFD for every soul aboard. The Coast Guard mandates that these must be "readily accessible" in case of emergency. If your boat is longer than 16 feet, you are also required to have some sort of throwable PFD. This throwable must be kept "immediately accessable," per Coast Guard regulations.
If your yacht is under 26 feet, you most likely need a fire extinguisher, except on the smallest of craft (usually those without any sort of enclosed spaces or permanent fuel tanks). All boats above 26 feet LOA must have at least two handheld fire extinguishers, and the requirements increase as LOA increases. Remember to continually check the exinguishers to ensure that they are in working order.
Finally, as long as your vessel is longer than 16 feet you'll need several visual distress signals (VSDs). There are several ways to fulfill this requirement, usually with different kinds of day (D) or night (N) rated flares, flags, or smoke signals, depending on the size of your vessel.
As far as non-essential items go, there are a myriad of options available. For navigation, radar, depth finders, a GPS, or even an autopilot can greatly improve ease of travel. Appliances like refrigerators, freezers, or microwaves can make living on or traveling in a yacht much more comfortable. My personal favorite nautical non-necessity is a transom-mounted grill. There's nothing like a freshly grilled meal and a drink to pair with a sunset and the sight of the waves.
There's a lot to do before heading out on the water safely and legally. But, with preparedness and thouroughness, it's not too difficult to make sure your vessel is in accordance with Coast Guard regulations. Beyond that, the world of nautical gear is your oyster. As always, happy (and safe) yachting!