Six marine safety devices that could save a fisherman

My fisherman left at five this morning without a Garmin InReach because we couldn’t find it. Recent engine trouble makes me nervous, but what can I do? It’s the nature of the beast, boat stuff happens, and my husband, Chris Dabney, needs to pull traps “today.”

Commercial fishing is not the enemy, but rather anxiety, and over the years, Partners of Commercial Fishermen (POCFs) have learned to tame the worry. However, it is reassuring to have more than good vibes and a satellite phone to protect your fisherman, especially with stories like this from Jim Colomy, a forty-year spiny lobster commercial fisherman out of Santa Barbara, California:

“I’ve fished alone for years now. After a close call years ago when my seat broke, and I almost went over while my boat was doing 16 knots on autopilot, I bought a kill switch from Emerald Marine.”


His wife, Jolene, offers excellent tips on raising a family with a fisherman here, and his daughter, Lauren, confirmed dad’s advice with an Instagram DM. (Hey, Lauren!) 

application on phone that shows location of commercial fishing boat

personal Direct message from Instagram recommending a marine safety device from Emerald Marine

Here’s a quick reference for marine safety devices to make this easier because it’s confusing AF:

MMSI: “Marine Mobility Service Identity Number.” 

I relate an MMSI to a boat’s social security number plugged into the vessel’s VHF radio system to broadcast the boat’s position for travel and emergencies. I believe you need an MMSI number to connect with a few devices linked below. 

VHF Radio: “Very High Frequency” Radio. 

Or the walkie-talkie-looking thing that truck drivers also use. Channel 16 is the primary channel to contact the Coast Guard and communicate with other vessels. Vessels connect on channel 16, then move up or down to connect on a less public channel to share information (or shoot the sh*t).

MOB: “Man Overboard.” 

When someone falls off the boat and into a body of water. 

PFD: “Personal Flotation Device.” 

PFDs are usually designed as vests with manual or automatic deployment.

PLB: “Personal Locator Beacon.” 

A basic tool using satellite signals to locate a person anywhere in the world, both land and sea. Transmits signals for up to twenty-four hours. Generally not waterproof unless specified on the device.