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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Tag: safety

Keep Seafood COLD, Not Just COOL — For Safety’s Sake!

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Cedar Key, Recipes and Food


When fishing, there’s never enough ice. Of course, keeping drinks and lunch cool is important, but “cool” doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to the safe storage of our catch. Once boated, both shellfish and finfish begin to degrade quickly. There are, however, a few tricks to remember.


The first thing to do is to get your ice as cold as possible. If you plan a fishing trip, throw a small bag of ice in the cooler the night before. Pre-cooling the cooler will temper it, and ice will last longer in the next day’s heat. Then, as close to your point of departure as is possible, fill you cooler completely with ice. And, if possible, put a couple reusable frozen ice packs like the Arctic Ice Tundra or a handful of frozen bottles of water under your store-bought ice. That will prevent some melting and your ice will last longer.


Second, once your catch starts coming aboard, drain any water off your ice, add a few quarts of salt water to create a super-cooled slurry, and put your catch into the ice right away. Don’t leave fish on the deck to die, as just a few minutes in the hot sun can make a big difference at the dinner table.


Finally, with regards to seafood safety, use an appropriate cooler. Unfortunately, the better coolers are the most expensive, but they do hold ice longer. Know that white coolers reflect sunlight and stay cooler while dark ones absorb heat, and any cooler kept in the shade will work best. And if you already own a dark surfaced cooler, consider covering it with a white towel.



Island Hotel’s Hearts of Palm Salad


Here’s a cool recipe that’s perfect for a hot summer day. It was originally created by Bessie Gibbs at Cedar Key’s Island Hotel in the 1950’s. The current owners of the hotel, Andy and Stanley Bair, shared it with me. It’s simple, and flexible. The key to its unique flavor is the dressing, the hearts of palm, and the chopped, sugared dates.


Seasonal greens and fruits (sliced kiwis, grapes, strawberries, melon chunks)

Sugared dates, chopped

Hearts of palm, cut into bite-sized pieces





Dressing (serves 4-6)


Thoroughly combine the following and re-freeze. Put a scoop atop the assembled salad just before you serve.


1-pint vanilla ice cream

1-pint lime sherbet

1/4-cup peanut butter

1/4-cup mayonnaise

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“Home Safe” For The Holidays–A Guide to Boating Safety Gifts


From: The Fishing Wire

We all want our family, friends and loved ones to return home safely from every adventure on the water, whether it’s a day spent fishing, a sail down the coast or an extended voyage to a distant island. We can’t deny that leaving shore behind comes with at least some level of inherent danger from weather, accidents, mechanical failures, fires and rough seas. It’s all part of what makes every day on the water an adventure and every safe return to the dock a joyous occasion.

Fortunately, safety technology has expanded by leaps and bounds over recent years – and nowhere is this more evident than in the area of safety-related marine electronics. It can be a bit daunting for friends and family members to sort through this technology and marketing jargon, to determine what the boaters in their life really need. “Safety technology has seen both rapid growth and evolution, and these products continue to be among our hottest sellers,” said The GPS Store’s Scott Heffernan. “This is particularly true over the Holidays. After all, what better way to show the boaters in your life that you love them than a gift that could literally help save their life some day?”

The NMEA-certified staff of The GPS Store offers this gift-giving guide to the latest safety products, from stocking stuffers to boater’s “dream gifts”:

Ditch Bag – As the name implies, ditch bags like the ACR RapidDitch Express ($49.95 through TheGPSStore.com) are specialized floating bags designed to hold and organize safety gear and electronics for emergency, abandon-ship situations. All the safety gear in the world won’t help you if it’s spread around the boat and inaccessible. Having a good ditch bag is a critical first step to improving the survivability of emergency situations. It keeps things like beacons, lights, radios, signals and GPS close at hand, and even provides added flotation for people in the water.

Emergency Handheld VHF – Most boats have dedicated VHF radios, but if you lose power or can’t reach the radio in an emergency, it won’t help you. A backup handheld VHF with built-in GPS is a great idea; particularly one designed for emergencies like Standard Horizon’s HX851 ($249.95 through TheGPSStore.com). This radio is waterproof and floats; so it can be used to make emergency calls after you’ve abandoned ship. It even glows in the dark and features a strobe light that activates automatically in water – something that will come in handy in darkness or inclement weather. In addition to normal VHF communications with nearby vessels, you can fire-off one-button Digital Selective Calling (DSC) distress calls that alert all DSC-equipped vessels with your emergency and GPS position.

EPIRB – This stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which alerts Coast Guard and local Search & Rescue agencies of your emergency and – if equipped – GPS position using satellites and earth stations. Units like the Cat II ACR Global Fix Pro ($429.95 through TheGPSStore.com) can be carried in a ditch bag and manually deployed. Others like the Cat I ACR 2846 Global Fix iPro ($699.95) are often mounted on the vessel so they will float free and activate if a vessel sinks or capsizes. Their ability to self-activate in catastrophic events is an important first line of defense and has helped speed rescue to thousands of boaters worldwide.

Personal Locator Beacon – PLBs like the ACR ResQLink ($254.95 through TheGPSStore.com) are like EPIRBs for passengers. They broadcast a 406MHz satellite distress signal to the Coast Guard and separate homing signal to local Search & Rescue agencies. Several PLBs can fit inside a ditch bag, and they are designed to clip onto life jackets. Boaters often get separated when they go into the water; having a PLB for everyone aboard can be the difference between life and death in an emergency. When boating far offshore, crossing dangerous bars or encountering heavy weather, it’s a good idea to have all passengers wearing their PLBs.

Emergency Lights – You can’t be rescued without being seen first. Boating emergencies often occur at night, during bad weather and/or in rough seas. All these things contribute to poor visibility and can hamper rescue efforts at a time when minutes matter. There are many affordable lights designed specifically for this purpose; we recommend the ACR Firefly Waterbug Strobe Light ($69.95 through TheGPSStore.com). This product attaches to life vests and activates automatically in the water. The bright strobe makes boaters visible in the water, even under the worst conditions. There should be one of these for each passenger in every ditch bag.

Handheld GPS – GPS chartplotters are practically standard equipment on most boats today, however, it could easily be inoperable due to power loss, or inaccessible on a vessel filling with water. This is where a handheld like the waterproof, floating Garmin GPS 72H ($127.95 through TheGPSStore.com) can literally save the day. It may well be that rescue will come from nearby vessels, and being able to pinpoint and report your position will be critical. Having a handheld GPS in your ditch bag also provides a ready backup in the event of non-emergency navigation system failures (if, for example, you just need to save a fishing trip rather than save your life).

Satellite Messenger/Tracker – About the size of a smart phone, the waterproof Spot 2 Satellite Messenger and Personal Tracker ($99.95 through TheGPSStore.com) is designed to provide peace of mind to boaters and their loved ones. With the push of a button, users can notify family, friends or International Rescue Centers of their situation or just report in to contacts worldwide that they’re OK. A Help Mode is provided for non-life-threatening emergencies (think broken down or out of gas). You can also set it up for your contacts to track your location and voyage progress using Google Maps.

Satellite Phone – A big part of peace of mind on the water is just knowing you can keep in touch with friends and family. Since many voyages take people out of cell range, technology like a Globalstar GSP 1700 Satellite Phone ($499.95 through TheGPSStore.com) can help boaters and loved ones stay connected. Handheld and portable, this system provides even the smallest boat with reliable communications at sea. Another variation of satellite technology is the Delorme InReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator ($299.95 through TheGPSStore.com). This compact device lets you send and receive text messages and emails outside of cell range, while a built-in GPS can be used to send your location to emergency response centers. Like a satellite phone, it has many useful applications outside of boating emergencies.

Life Raft – While this may not be “electronics,” a life raft like the Viking RescYou Coastal ($1,795 through TheGPSStore.com) may be the ultimate life saving gift. Getting out of the water is key to survival, particularly in places where rescue will take hours. This sturdy six-man raft is designed for coastal cruising and sport fishing, where rescue can be expected within 24 hours. It easily fits in a valise or deck/rail-mounted fiberglass container, yet offers advanced features including an auto-inflating canopy, automatic strobe and interior lights, stabilizing ballast bags and coastal emergency pack.

“Buying safety gear for a boater or fisherman in your life is a great way to show you care, and that you want them to come home safe from every trip,” said Heffernan. “It also makes for a great Holiday gift-giving theme. Buy a ditch bag and invite other family members to give items to help fill it up. There are ideas that cover every budget – these are just a few examples. Small, inexpensive items like signal mirrors, safety whistles and visual distress signals make great stocking stuffers,” he added.

To learn more about giving the gift of safety – and love – for the Holidays, call The GPS Store customer service at (800) 477-2611 or visit their website at www.TheGPSStore.com.

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Sea Tow Offers Hurricane Season Tips for Boaters


SOUTHOLD, N.Y., – The official forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season, issued on May 23, called for “an active or extremely active season” this year. For the six-month hurricane season, which begins on June 1, NOAA predicted 70 percent likelihood of 13-20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7-11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3-6 major Category 3-5 hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher). This is well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

Hurricane Sandy, which devastated areas of the Northeast last October, causing an estimated $650 million in damage to recreational boats, demonstrated that even boaters in regions that infrequently experience hurricanes should be prepared for hurricane season. The direction, size and severity of storms can change quickly. Last-minute preparations often are difficult to make and limited in their scope. So it pays to plan ahead. Now is the time for boaters to start taking steps to protect their vessels from what could be a very busy summer storm season along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Sea Tow Services International, Inc. (www.seatow.com), the nation’s leading marine assistance service provider, offers the following 15 tips from its experienced Coast Guard-licensed Captains for how boaters can prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.

Be sure your boat is insured. A boat that is damaged by a hurricane can wind up costing far more to fix than an insurance policy costs annually.

Review your marine insurance policy, especially its hurricane season provisions. Boat owners whose insurance requires them to relocate their vessels out of a hurricane zone should do so by the date specified in their policy.

Make a Storm Plan. Most insurance providers require a formal written plan detailing where and how your boat must be secured during a major storm. Designate a responsible person to execute the plan if you will be out of town.

Check with your marina, storage facility or the owner of the private dock where your boat is moored to be sure the vessel can remain there during a hurricane. If it can stay, know the procedure for securing not only your boat, but those docked around it as well. A boat that breaks loose in a hurricane can wreak havoc on neighboring vessels.

Pick a haul-out provider. Owners who must move their boats in the event of a storm should decide where to have it hauled before hurricane season begins. Don’t wait until a storm is imminent. Check with your local Sea Tow operator to see what pre-storm haul-out services are offered.

Monitor local and national weather services including NOAA Weather Radio and the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.noaa.gov.

Make an inventory, preferably by video, of all valuable fixed items such as marine electronics onboard your boat.

Store all the boat’s important documents, including your marine insurance policy, in a secure place off the vessel.

When a major storm is forecast for your area:

Remove all detachable items from your boat, such as canvas, sails, cushions, fishing rigging, radios, electronics and antennas. Lash down everything that you cannot remove, including booms, tillers, wheels, etc.

Deflate your dinghy and store it and its outboard motor off the boat. If it’s a fiberglass dinghy, have it stored in an indoor facility.

Lash your boat down securely if it is on a trailer. Use tie-downs to anchor the trailer to the ground, let the air out of its tires, and weigh down the frame.

Disconnect your boat’s battery. If it is in a facility with shore power, be sure all power is turned off and all shore power cords are stowed securely.

Center your boat in its slip if it is docked in a marina or in a private berth. Double-up all dock lines and make sure they are of sufficient length to compensate for excessive high water.

Anchored boats should put out enough scope. Inspect all anchor rodes and chain and use only good or new gear. Set extra anchors as necessary.

Do not stay with your boat or try to ride out a storm on board. No matter how valuable your vessel is to you-both financially and sentimentally-it’s not worth your life.

About Sea Tow
Now celebrating its 30th anniversary year, Sea Tow Services International Inc. is the nation’s leading on-water assistance provider. Established in 1983 by Founder & CEO Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer, Sea Tow now serves members in more than 100 locations throughout the United States, Europe, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. For a full list of membership benefits, how to become a Sea Tow member, or to inquire about becoming a Sea Tow franchise owner, please visit seatow.com.

In addition to providing peace of mind on the water 24/7 to Sea Tow members and other boaters, Sea Tow also offers innovative, free boating safety and information services to the public, including the Sea Tow App for smartphones, Sea Tow’s Automated Radio Check Service, and the nonprofit Sea Tow Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Station program. For more information, visit www.seatow.com and www.boatingsafety.com.

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Last Ditch Effort–Advice on Stocking a Boating Ditch Bag


From my friend Frank Sargeant at The Fishing Wire:

Most experienced boaters have heard the stories of boating disasters – vessels capsizing, sinking suddenly or catching fire far from help and the reach of other boaters. These misadventures usually share a few things in common – the crews began the day without a care in the world and things – sometimes several things – went wrong quickly. And at that moment when you realize this really is happening to you, there is no amount you wouldn’t pay for the proper safety gear – particularly if you don’t have it.

“Safety gear – particularly modern rescue electronics – can literally make the difference between life and death,” said Scott Heffernan, Sales Manager for The GPS Store, Inc. “There are just as many stories with happy endings, where families were saved because they had planned for that worse case scenario by preparing a Ditch Bag with items to help them be found by rescuers quickly. If you sail, cruise or fish in the ocean, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to invest in your safety,” added Heffernan.

What is a Ditch Bag? Bags like the ACR RapidDitch Express are designed to keep safety electronics and survival gear organized and ready for immediate abandon ship situations. They are meant to “grab and go” when you have only seconds to get in the water or life raft. This floating bag and its contents then become your lifeline. If you ever do find yourself in this situation, here are some of the things you’ll be glad you have packed inside:

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon: EPIRBs like the ACR Global Fix Pro can be affixed on the vessel or carried in a ditch bag to notify Coast Guard and local Search and Rescue teams and provide your GPS position over two separate frequencies (406MHz and 121.5MHz, respectively). Some EPIRBS are meant to be manually deployed, while others activate automatically if the vessel sinks. These are required equipment on many commercial and passenger vessels – for good reason.

Personal Locator Beacon: PLBs like the new ACR ResQLink are small but powerful rescue aids. Much like an EPIRB, it broadcasts a 406MHz satellite distress signal to the Coast Guard and a separate homing signal for local Search and Rescue authorities to pinpoint your position. The ResQLink is small enough to attach to a flotation vest, yet it boasts an accurate 66-channel internal GPS for precise positioning. Prepared boaters should have an EPIRB for the vessel and a PLB for each person aboard – as individual crew may end up miles apart in an emergency.

Emergency Handheld VHF: Standard Horizon’s HX851 handheld was designed for use in ditch bags, with a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) distress button and built-in GPS that alerts all DSC-equipped vessels in range with your position. This is vital, as nearby boats are your best shot at quick rescue. A full functioning waterproof VHF, the HX851 lets you talk with rescuers and other vessels. It also glows in the dark, includes a built-in strobe light that automatically activates when the radio gets wet, and it floats.

Light Yourself Up. Being rescued takes on a whole new sense of urgency in the dark. You must be seen to be found, regardless of the electronic aids you have at your disposal. A stocked ditch bag should contain plenty of emergency strobe lights, like ACR’s RapidFire vest strobe. Designed to attach to each crewmember’s life jacket and activate with a pull-pin, this tiny light puts out a bright flash and operates for eight continuous hours – making a big difference in your chances for survival.

This is just some of the equipment that goes into a well-stocked ditch bag. Whistles and signal mirrors also help you get seen and heard by nearby boats and rescuers. Other items like water packs, flashlights, duct tape, glow sticks, protein bars and sunglasses can add to your comfort and safety. For more information on ditch bags and safety equipment, contact The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit www.TheGPSStore.com.

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