The RYA’s purpose is simple: to promote and protect safe, successful and rewarding British boating. A safe mindset and the ability to learn from others, are vital to achieve this.
The RYA recognises that realistically danger can never be eliminated completely. Nevertheless, the national governing body continues to promote safety lessons learned following incidents and to supplement personal knowledge, skills and experience by building on the RYA ethos of self-reliance and responsibility for safety on board.
The RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews provide a 24-hour rescue service in the UK and Ireland. Its crews and lifeguards have saved more than 142,200 lives since 1824, but they are more than a rescue service.
They influence, supervise and educate people too. Using data to highlight the issues then working closely with the RYA and other influential partners, they work to change behaviours to keep more people enjoying boating for longer.
It is a striking fact that the majority of watersport activities are safe, but it is clear that occasions which should have been a fun, rewarding and enjoyable day out have quite unexpectedly ended in tragic circumstances.
That is why the RYA and RNLI joined forces to develop the Better Boating booklet, outlining key safety considerations for anyone getting afloat. Available online and as a printed booklet, Better Boating features a host of safety topics – from the importance of planning to the requirement for safety equipment such as lifejackets, personal communication devices and kill cords.
“We take pride in our ethos of self-reliance and responsibility for safety afloat,” explained RYA Cruising Manager Stuart Carruthers. “We are equally proud to have worked alongside the RNLI on the Better Boating booklet in support of our key safety messages: look after yourself, have a plan, keep in touch and know your limits.
“In reality, the vast majority of watersports are safe and fun – that is how it should be, but it is also clear that accidents can and do happen. We are confident that everyone who reads Better Boating will be encouraged to think about their own attitudes to safety and about their own abilities.”
Safe behaviour and established good practice ultimately protect life and equipment – they are vital for the enjoyment of leisure boating at every level.
Here are a few of the tips and safety reminders that are featured in Better Boating.
Be honest with yourself about your knowledge and ability. Many accidents at sea happen because people try to do too much before they are ready or underestimate the risks involved.
Every year, more than 250,000 people complete RYA training courses. They range from absolute beginners to those looking to extend their knowledge for sailing dinghies, windsurfing, powerboats, personal watercraft, inland waterways and sail or motor cruising.
They can prepare you for anything, from taking your first trip out of the marina to living on board, and from cruising along the coast to venturing further offshore. To develop your skills, learn how to stay safe and achieve your sailing goals, find the right course at rya.org.uk/go/training.
PREPARATION AND PLANNING
Even the simplest and shortest of journeys require some planning. It is a legal obligation under SOLAS to plan your passage – it helps you avoid dangerous situations, gather the information you need and think about an alternative plan should things change.
“There are many factors that may determine what you can enjoy safely on any given day. Your boating may be constrained, for example, by you and your knowledge, the suitability of the boat, the ability of your crew, available equipment or the weather. The key is to identify your limits and work within them or take the appropriate action to overcome them before setting out,” added Stuart.
Making a plan does not need to be complicated. The amount of planning you should do depends on the type of boat you have and the sort of trip you will be taking. Think about where you want to go and how you will get there safely. Then you will be able to figure out your route and check if there are any hazards or navigational risks that you should avoid.
Before you go, check the weather forecast from a range of sources and get regular updates if you are planning to be out for a while. Boats equipped with a DSC VHF radio can monitor coastguard maritime safety information broadcasts for updates while at sea, that same DSC VHF is also a great way to call for help should you require it.
Remember, the weather forecast is only an indication of what is likely to happen. Also check the anticipated currents and tidal predictions for your trip and make sure they fit with what you are planning to do.
Make sure that everyone on board knows where the safety equipment is stowed and how to use it. Talk them through your plan, as well as your contingency plans should something go wrong – including who should take over if you are injured or taken ill. Check that they know how to start the engine and how to send a mayday call, and make them aware of any on board hazards.
SHARE YOUR PLAN
Telling someone what you are doing used to be a challenge for any small boat user, canoer, kayaker, wind or kite surfers. Contacting the Coastguard in the event of distress was equally problematic.
For that reason, the Better Boating booklet urges readers to use RYA SafeTrx. The app is free to download and there is no charge to use it. RYA SafeTrx records your details, ETA and tracks your trip. The app will automatically alert a nominated contact if the trip goes overdue and your sail plan will be available to the Coastguard if search and rescue has to be activated.
As absolute minimum, you should always make sure someone ashore knows where you are going and when you plan to be back before going afloat.
WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP
Better Boating is just one example of collaborative working between the two delivery partners.
Stuart explained: “We have also recently given permission for the RNLI to place orders directly for the RYA’s Think! Kill Cord stickers for use on their boarding boats and for their Community Safety volunteers to distribute in the wider boating community.
“We will continue to work closely with our delivery partners and other UK agencies responsible for safety on the water and with the marine trade to progress our policy of information and education – which we believe is a powerful tool in fostering safe attitudes and behaviour on the water.”
Download your free copy of Better Boating at rya.org.uk/go/safety or RNLI.org/boating.