Safety should be your topmost priority when sailing on a boat. No matter the vessel’s size and your level of expertise, you should always keep in mind that your safety and those of your passengers are of utmost importance.
Knowledge is the most important tool in ensuring boat safety, which is why we have compiled 12 tips you should follow during emergency situations while sailing.
1. Understand the Weather
If you see dark clouds rolling in or feel the breeze becoming cooler and stronger, it may be best to avoid the water entirely. If you’re already in the waters, these conditions may be signs that you should already head to shore.
You may look at the sky for indications but the local weather forecast is more useful in determining if it is safe to head to the waters. Make a habit of reading about the local weather forecast online or monitor the news on TV or radio before scheduling your boat trips.
2. Have A Checklist Of Everything You Need to Do and Have On-Board
Safety is best ensured when prepared and it is best to have a checklist of what you need to do as well as the things you need to have onboard before the departure. Doing this will help you remember things that matter.
Also, make sure to ask yourself the following questions first before setting sail:
- What is the weather forecast for the day?
- Do I have my updated boat license and registration with me?
- Am I familiar with the waters I am going to set sail in?
- Have I checked the tide if the ramp is suitable to launch?
- Are there any repairs or defects on my boat?
- Is the fuel enough for the round trip?
- Is there more than enough food and water for everyone onboard?
- Do I have reserves of food, water, and fuel?
- Is the safety equipment on my boat in good, working condition?
- Do my passengers know the location and how to use the safety equipment onboard?
- Is there a reliable individual who knows on shore who knows my boating plan?
Your boating plan should be written down in detail. It should include the destination, path you plan to take, the number of passengers onboard, and the type of emergency beacon and radio available on the boat. This way, there will always be someone who knows when it is time to call emergency personnel to look for the vessel if something happens that wasn’t according to plan.
It is also good to have a complete pre-departure checklist of tools you need for emergencies, including:
- First aid kit
- Boat hook
- Drinking water
- Fire extinguisher
- Lifejackets and other buoyancy aids
- Map and compass
- Anchor chain and rope
- Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)
3. Heed Your Common Sense
What this means is avoiding any potentially dangerous situations like collision due to unsafe speeds and losing focus while steering. Avoid maneuvering too close to large watercraft. Respect navigational aids like buoys that ensure safety in the waters.
4. Assign an Assistant
It is imperative that you have someone else onboard who knows how to handle your boat safely even if you’re an expert. This way, the safety of the passengers is ensured even when the navigator or the captain is incapacitated due to some unforeseen circumstances. Also, the assistant skipper you choose should know the standard safety boating regulations and understand the boating plan well, so that the boat can return to shore as planned.
5. Create a Float Plan
A float plan is a document that contains important details about your trip. It should indicate the trip leader’s name, address, and contact information; the names and number of passengers onboard; the itinerary of the trip; the type of boat and details of registration; and the specifications of signal; communication equipment available onboard; estimated travel time and approximate time of return to shore.
Give this information to someone left on land. This way, someone should be able to detect if there are any delays on your return. It is also useful for when you encounter unexpected circumstances while out in the waters.
6. Use Lifejackets
Lifejackets are a must, whether you’re out boating for business or leisure. More importantly, these floatation devices should be worn from before you leave dry land until you return.
7. Don’t Mix Boating and Alcohol
The limit of alcohol in a person’s blood while boating is set at 0.05%— same with drivers on dry land. Not only is drinking while boating prohibited bu the movement of the boat, the heat of the sun, and the powerful winds tend to heighten the disorienting effects of alcohol.
8. Learn How to Swim
This is an integral part of boat safety as it would ensure that you are one less person that needs to be saved when a catastrophe occurs.
9. Educate Yourself
Boating education is a requisite in most countries. Even if it isn’t required in yours, make sure to undergo basic training for you to be knowledgeable and well-prepared for any kind of incident that may occur while sailing.
10. Ensure Children’s Safety
Children can be a handful on land, what more on water. Make sure that an adult who knows all the safety measures for boating keeps a close eye on them. Prevent them from sitting with their legs or arms dangling over the sides of a moving vessel. Make them wear life jackets during the entire trip.
11. Have a Marine Radio Handy
Make sure you have some way of communicating with those on land when something unexpected happens. Mobile phones are not enough because aside from its limitation to reach only one person at a time, it can also run out of battery or reception during the boating trip.
12. Stay Bright at Night
Be wary of your surroundings during this time. It also pays to have additional lights on board to help others see it and avoid a collision.