Guidelines for Boating and Sailing Safety

After having to put up with the cold, summer is finally here, a wonderful time where fun and outdoor activities are the order of the day. This is the season to get out of your homes, head to the beaches and into the sea, taking cruises and sailing into the sea on your boat, yacht or gulet. Though sailing into the sea is an amazing way of experiencing the outdoors and seeing the world, there are precautions that need to be taken before setting off on your voyage. Below are important safety tips that will make your sailing fun and safe at the same time.

1. Check everything before leaving

Sailing into the sea is fun but could be extremely dangerous depending on how prepared you are. Check to ensure your survival kit is intact before leaving the port. Check to ensure you have your first aid kit, life preserver of adequate size for everyone on board, life jackets, fire extinguishers in case of a fire, enough fuel and working lights in case you find yourself sailing in the night or in dark areas. You should also not forget to carry enough drinking water and food and also enough fuel (again, this is very important!) for the period you will be sailing. You may also bring a flare gun, a container to bail water and wax seal in case of an emergency like a hole on your boat.

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2. Check the weather

Ensuring you know the weather of your journey's starting point and your destination is one thing that should never be ignored. It should be known that once you head into the sea, reaching out to people on land will be quite a challenge so precaution in terms of weather conditions should be taken. Though weather in the sea is quite unpredictable, you should reduce your risk of capsizing due to storms, tides and strong winds by keeping track of the weather using your smart phone or on board radio. You should also know your way to the nearest shores in case of unexpected rapid weather changes. Knowing the weather will also help you to determine the kind of clothing or gear you may need for example cold weather will call for warm clothing.

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3. Know your boat's capacity

How much weight can your boat sustain and how many people can it accommodate? This is an extremely important question to ask yourself. Your boat should never be overloaded lest you risk capsizing or sinking. Most boat accidents occur due to overloading either due to ignorance or just arrogance. Capacity and loading capacity of any water vessel should be taken seriously as it is a matter of life and death. You can find formulas for safe loading and more information about capacity here on Boating Basics Online.

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4. Do not drink and ride

This does not only apply to vehicles. This rule should be followed even in water. Alcohol and other drugs when taken will alter your thinking and perception thus affecting your judgement of distance and impending danger thus making the whole sailing experience risky. In addition to this, you should have enough sleep before heading off on such a course. Lack of sleep, just like drugs, will affect your perception, sight and hearing thus putting you in danger when sailing.

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5. Know your environment

Different water bodies have different features and different activities taking place on them. Others have irregular sea beds with deep areas and very shallow areas, others have fishing activities while others have mining activities. You should be on the lookout, both by sight and by hearing when sailing. It helps to have a map or a guide with you to show you where great caution should be taken, especially when sailing into unknown areas. When approaching obstacles such as ice bergs, rocks and other vessels like ships and boats, you should be sure to slow down so as to avoid accidents.

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6. Sail at a safe speed

Your sailing speed should be chosen carefully to prevent accidents and possible hazards to other people on other vessels. Safe speed is relative and depends on the sailor's experience, visibility, presence of other vessels, maneuverability of the vessel and navigation hazards. In such instances, speed should be reduced to a level in which changes and adjustments can be easily made in case of an emergency.

7. Know the rules

Different states have different sailing rules that should be adhered to. Before taking that boat ride, you should consider knowing the laws and regulations governing such activities. Whether you are allowed to practice other activities like fishing, swimming or surfing, the dangers of sailing into the waterways and even if there are specific requirements in terms of the size and condition of your water vessel. It also helps to know what to do in case of an accident or emergency; the person to call, what signals you need to use and other specific precautions you may need to take. You should also know the different sound and light signals and what they mean and also know the rules that apply to giving way to other vessels.

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8. Maintain your water vessel.

Your water vessel should never be left unmaintained. In case of damage, it should be repaired and it should be checked on a regular basis to prevent accidents and emergencies while on board.

The skippers from Orvas Yachting also recommend having an oar or a large stick in the boat as a good safety precaution in case the vessel goes aground or your fuel runs out. It is also a good precaution to know how to swim just in case you fall into the water or your vessel capsizes or sinks. For better sailing, it is advisable to take some sailing safety course from institutions like the Coast Guard Auxillary to ensure 100% safety as you enjoy nature and have fun on the endless waters.


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