5 Most Essential Items to Bring Aboard

When the going gets tough, these will help you keep going.

Handhelds
A handheld GPS and VHF come with me whenever I'm on the water. When your fixed mounts don't work, you'll have a way to call for help and let the water authorities know where you are. Get two-for-one with a VHF/ GPS combo unit like the Standard Horizon HX851 ($269, www.standardhorizon.com).

Crash Protection
Stow a collision mat so you can wrap it around a breach in the hull to staunch a leak. A traditional canvas mat, like the one from WM Canvas ($150, www.foreandaftmarine.com), should help keep the water from overwhelming your bilge pumps so you can get home.

Sharp Knife
A good knife can get you out of many sticky situations. Should you need to cut the anchor line to get out of a jam, you'll appreciate having a folding blade/multitool like the Wenger Alinghi SUI1 ($175, www.wengerna.com) clipped to your belt.

Personal Locator Beacon
You can't guarantee every boat you step aboard has an EPIRB, but you can bring your own. When activated, the McMurdo FastFind 210 GPS PLB ($299, www.westmarine.com) sends your personal distress code to authorities to hasten your rescue.

Radar Reflector
Part with an Andrew Jackson and you can get a Davis Emergency Radar Reflector ($20, www.landfallnavigation.com) that shows up on the radar screen of every passing vessel in the area to help you be found and keep your stranded vessel from being run over.