Safety Equipment

Importance of On Board Safety Equipment when Sailing

Safety equipment, both on board and personal is one of the most important aspects of enjoying the water sensibly. When you are looking forward to getting out on the water, it's easy to forget about your safety equipment. You may think t only needs checking once in a while or once you have it, you have it and there's nothing more to think about. But being safe on the water should be your number one priority, so make sure that all your safety equipment is checked before every voyage to make sure it's up to date and serviceable. Choose from the best companies that we work with in the UK to provide you with the best sailing and marine safety equipment.

Safety equipment saves lives and if you don't do your due diligence when it comes to preparation of your vessel before going to sea or using your vessel on the water, it can cost you dearly. Some equipment is mandatory by law (depending on your location, vessel and usage) and you can find yourself with a hefty fine if you don't carry this on board. Other equipment may not be a legal requirement, but you might want to carry it with you anyway just in case. The further away from the coast you intend to sail at sea, the more precautions you should take when it comes to safety equipment. Do your research and make sure that your vessel meets all legal requirements, as well as any recommended extras depending upon your usage needs.

For pleasure vessels that are less than 13.7m in length there are no statutory requirements for safety equipment, other than those required under SOLAS V. However, for pleasure vessels (including yachts and powerboats) over 13.7m in length there are some legal requirements that you should be aware of. Here is a quick breakdown of some of what you need aboard your boat :

  • Radar Reflector– this will maximise your vessel's visibility to any ships that navigate using radar and is very important. Without a radar reflector, most small boats return little or no echo, meaning that any ships relying upon radar to identify potential hazards and collision situations will not see you without one.
  • Life Raft – should the worst happen, a life raft can be the difference between life and death. Without one, your chances of survival are significantly lower and your survival time in the water is extremely variable, from minutes to hours depending upon the time of year, weather conditions and water temperature.
  • Fire Fighting Equipment – there are standards in place to help sailors prevent fires and detect fires as quickly as possible, allowing passengers enough time to abandon ship. You should have a minimum of three fire extinguishers stored in various locations on your vessel that are capable of handling Type A and Type B fires.
  • Life Jackets – you must carry enough life jackets or buoyancy aids for everyone on board in case of an emergency. These can either be automatic inflating, so that it inflates automatically when a person enters the water (recommended) or manual inflation types. Life jackets should have crotch straps to avoid them rising too far over the head when worn in the water.
  • First Aid Kit – a suitable first aid kit and knowledge of how to administer the contents of the kit will help minimise problems from injuries whilst at sea. For short trips that aren't far from the coast you might only need the type of kit you have at home or in your car. However, for longer trips you will need something more substantial that must be correctly stored on board.
  • Navigation Lights and Sound Signals – these can help prevent collisions and ensure that vessels are aware of the direction other vessels are moving in order to take action. Lights are crucial for preventing collision when sailing at night and must be used.
  • VHF Radio – this can be handheld if you only require a small communication range, or a fixed VHF set if you will be communicating at distances between 20 – 40 miles. VHF is an important way for search and rescue to contact you, as well as locate you using Radio Direction Finding (RDF) equipment.
  • Distress Flares – these can make sure that you get help as quickly as possible if disaster strikes. Make sure that you are aware of the correct procedures when setting off a flare and point it downwind of the vessel to avoid damage.
  • Life Ring or Danbuoy – these are necessary for a man overboard situation, enabling you to provide buoyancy assistance fast. These must be set up correctly and fixed to the vessel with a clear, free-flowing line to avoid delay in an emergency. A Danbuoy is a self-inflating buoyancy aid that inflates upon hitting the water into a highly visible 2 metre high buoy and life ring all in one unit.

It is important to be aware of what is legally required for your vessel and in the areas you will be travelling, and also bear in mind that equipment must be maintained and checked on a regular basis to ensure it is in good working order. Cutting corners with safety equipment can be extremely dangerous at sea, putting both your life and the life of your passengers in danger.