During the summer many boat owners, with their families and friends, head off for a bit of a cruise.
The traditional summer cruise is longer than the average weekend or overnight outing that most sailors undertake and needs quite a bit more planning. Starting with the route and destination and -in as much as weather and sea conditions allow – a passage plan.
Next, the catering, packing and all manner of creature comforts. Finally it is time to check that everything works, get any last minute servicing done and to have spares and tools for all major eventualities. In this category should be the most important bit of preparation of all – safety planning and safety equipment.
Your yacht will most likely be equipped with all the basics already: lifejackets, VHF radio, flares, first aid kit and horseshoe lifebuoy. Bigger yachts and those doing regular long voyages may well carry liferafts, EPIRBs and personal man overboard location and recovery devices, which can be fixed to an oilskin jacket or lifejacket.
If you do not own a liferaft or do not often leave coastal waters, but your voyage involves some longer offshore sailing, then you should consider hiring a liferaft. The typical cost to hire a four-person liferaft from, say, Ocean Safety for a fortnight is £100, while purchasing it costs from £1,806. So if that is the only time you need it, it makes sense to go down the hire route. An added bonus it that you do not need to worry about servicing.
Checking all the rest of the equipment is important too. Flares go out of date, as do the bobbins that automatically inflate lifejackets. Check them all and take them to your nearest service agent, which could be your nearest chandlery, or give Ocean Safety a call for advice.
It is all very well having an extensive inventory of operational safety equipment, but using it in an emergency is another matter altogether. Start your planning by considering who is going to be on the boat with you.
Are you the most experienced person on board? If so, and you were to fall overboard, the remaining crew need to have a drill ready to recover you, that they will be able to execute and also have the physical strength to complete. Remember some of your crew might be youngsters or more elderly.
In the days before you head off, invite them on board when no one is in a rush, and show them where everything is stowed and make sure they can access them.
Run through how everything works and get them to give you a demo once you have explained it. Make photocopies of instructions and send them home with them. Get everyone fitted for a lifejacket and put their names on a bit of sail tape to attach to each.
Carry out an all-important man overboard drill. If you have recovery items such as the Jonbuoy or Danbouy deploy these and also work out the favoured way of getting the person in the water back on to the boat, for instance using a halyard, or a stern ladder.
Knowing you are as prepared as you can be means you can keep safe, relax and enjoy the holiday.
For more advice visit Ocean Safety at next month’s Southampton Boat Show.