Boat Safety

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As a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard, I feel obligated to at least mention, at least one time, boat safety. So, let’s get it out of the way. Last year, the U.S.C.G. reported over 4,000 accidents which resulted in over 600 deaths from recreational boating. Recreational boating is supposed to be fun and no one likes to think about the terrible things that could happen while trying to have a good time. And of course, accidents happen and not all are preventable but why not do your best to be a responsible boater and lower the chances that an accident could happen? Errors account for 70% of boating accidents so education is one way to keep you and your loved ones safe on the water.

Here are some ideas on how to keep you and your loved ones safe:

  1. Have a Courtesy Vessel Safety Check at Your Boat! The U.S. Coast Guard offers free safety checks for all vessels with no penalty for failure. The idea is just to raise awareness and keep everyone educated and safe.
  2. Take a boat safety course! This can be done free at many places and even online.
  3. Lay off the alcohol. Sure, boating and having some drinks goes hand in hand but just like having a designated driver when you go out to the bar, use a designated driver when you are out on the water as well. Alcohol accounts for 1/3 of all boating accidents and results in serious fines, loss of privileges & jail time in some cases!
  4. Life jackets! It is the law that there must be a life jacket available for every person on your boat. Accidents can happen to even the most responsible boaters so make sure there are jackets aboard for everyone, not just children, just in case.
  5. Have a Float Plan. The Coast Guard recommends all boaters to have a Float Plan, from kayakers to power boaters, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared! And in the event something happens, search and rescue will have a better chance of being able to help if a float plan has been made.
  6. Know your state boating laws! Before you take your boat out, take the time to review your state laws. At the very least, you can avoid a ticket this way and potentially an accident.
  7. Know your Navigation Rules. Just like knowing the laws for driving a vehicle, you need to know your navigation rules before taking the boat out. Go here to find more info: Navigation Rules
  8. Make sure your flares are up to date & not water logged. Simple.
  9. Consider purchasing and registering an EPIRB – Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon that enables signaling of the Coast Guard via satellite should a problem arise.
  10. Be sure to have a GPS, fire extinguisher & first aid kit on board at all times.
  11. Cellphone signals can be weak on the water so consider maintaining a VHF radio.

Lastly, do not use the term “MAYDAY” when conducting a radio check. In case you were not aware, this is an actual term reserved for emergency situations. It would be like dialing 911 to see if your phone worked. Don’t be that guy! Otherwise, have fun on the water and be safe!


Small business startup

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A lot of people really want to take that leap and start their own business. Working for someone else can be comfortable, less stressful but at the same time, why should skills provide a healthy profit for someone else? If you have marketable skills, you don’t need a college degree or even a business background to take that leap. I have spent years of my life unpaid and overworked. The final straw was when I went from making $30/hour to half that for an unappreciative employer. On top of this, even though I requested accommodations for my disability related to military service, I was fired for using those accommodations. How illegal that was can be saved for another rant. 

This particular post is for those out there who need reassurance that forming their own company is not that difficult. The easiest was to get started is as an independent contractor. An independent contractor status is best approached by forming a sole proprietorship and obtaining what’s known as a DBA, or Doing Business As. Create a name for your service and simply register that name on for $50. This promotes professionlism and also allows you to create an identity beyond yourself. Take that DBA and open a business bank account. This also legitimizes your business in the eyes of future clients. 

Many people struggle with whether to make their business an LLC. This is not necessary unless, first, you want to protect personal assets from any business liability & second, you are willing to learn and adhere to the rules required to be followed that make an LLC credible. If these rules are not followed, your LLC offers zero protection, also another rant altogether.

Once you formed your business, now it’s time to market. First, a logo and some business cards are a must. Next, take advantage of all the free marketing out there with social media, Facebook, LindedIn, Twitter, WordPress Blogging etc….Then get your business info listed in the search engines, Google, Bing, Yahoo & YP. Now it’s time to tackle a webpage. You can get a domain name for super cheap on GoDaddy and try a month free and build a website. They also offer free SEO optimization.I would also post a quick ad on Craigslist, we have gotten quite a bit of businessfrom there but update it often.

Next, do some market research. I would research competitors and businesses that complement your services. Get out there, introduce yourself and drop business cards off there and with family and friends. If people call for services you don’t offer, recommend places that do and don’t be afraid to ask them to mention your recommendation.

Accounting software is crucial. Accounting software like QuickBooks online will offer a free month and can be tailored to match your services. There is typically a small monthly cost but will save you money come tax time. QuickBooks is user friendly and will help you categorize income and expenses or assets and liabilities. It will also provide you will a professional way to give customers estimates and invoice them upon project completion. This screams professional! It also provides a way for customers to pay with credit cards and bank transfers should you use their merchant services. 

Lastly, customer word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising. Treat your customers with respect, always do what you say you will and be where you say you’ll be. Offer free estimates and competitive pricing! Discounts to military & first responders shows you are thankful and word spreads about that! And always ask them to give you a review online. If they are happy with your service, they will never mind doing it. 

If you ever have accounting questions or need tax guidance, contact my wife, Nikki Hairston, our tax guru at 850-381-3249.


Coastie Marine,