Before we get to the checklists: Consider rewarding crew that think of ways to improve safety on your vessel. Money is one way, but during fishing, I find sleep to be a more valuable commodity. An extra hour in the rack can be worth about a million dollars some days.

The following is a companion to the feature story Staying Safe in Bristol Bay

Safety Gear

  • First Aid Kit
  • Ditch Bag (waterproof kayak bag with handheld VHF, handheld
  • EPIRB, flares, small first aid kit)
  • Man Overboard Sling for retrieval
  • Man Overboard retrieval system (Game Hoist, self-locking, 4:1 reduction, 500-lb maximum lift, @ $30)
  • Deck-hose extension with quick-connect for dewatering (long enough to reach into your foc’sle as well as your lazarette. Also can be used to assist in dewatering of other vessels)
  • Water-activated PFDs for ALL crew to wear during unloading, rough weather, and while on the bow tying up and anchoring.
  • Damage Control Kit (wooden plugs, inner-tube rubber in 1-inch rolls and 4-8-inch sheets, splash zone)
  • Check all running lights, deck lights, engine room lights.
  • Replace/repair as necessary.
  • Have waterproof flashlights with fresh batteries stored in key locations ready for use (engine room, foc’sle, lazarette)
  • Test ALL alarms (bilge high water, smoke, carbon monoxide, etc.)
  • Inspect anchor gear. Replace worn anchor rode, wire all shackles with SS wire.
  • Maintenance on all water-tight deck hatches (grease rubber seals and mechanical opening/closing handle, adjust for water-tight integrity)


  • Drill Instructor Card
  • Current First Aid Card
  • Current Flares
  • Current Renewal of life raft (if applicable)
  • USCG-approved life ring with minimum 90 feet of line
  • USCG-approved survival suits (with current battery for lights)
  • EPIRB if required (current registration/battery)
  • USCG-approved fire extinguishers
  • Carbon monoxide detectors in living areas
  • Smoke detectors in living area, engine room


  • Develop and maintain a culture of safety. Making Safety A Habit should be the ultimate goal of everyone on the boat. Remember: Good Habits are Bad to Break.
  • USCG required Drill Instruction by qualified instructor every 30 days (man overboard, fire, flooding, grounding, mayday)
  • Develop communication protocols for deck. Example: Skipper: “Set!” Crew: “Setting!” EVERY command should be verbally acknowledged by crew loud enough to be heard by skipper. Call/Response method of communication minimizes confusion, increases efficiency, and allows for a vessel to operate with consistency that leads to increased safety.
  • Review safety protocols for ALL deck activities (delivering, anchoring, tying up, balling off, running the net, retrieving the ball, etc.) Example: PFDs required for ALL crew while unloading, Anyone going to the bow for any reason wears a PFD. One crew ONLY gives commands to crane operator while unloading.

Michael “MJ” Jackson owns and operates the F/V Kelley J. He has fished in Bristol Bay for more than 30 years, is a board member of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and lives in Bellingham, Wash.

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