With most things in life, common sense goes a long way towards minimizing potential dangers and sailing is no exception. A perfect boat holiday begins and ends with passengers that feel safe. You can’t always predict an emergency, but you can be prepared for most situations. Be cautious, know your and your team’s limits. Remember – safety first, relaxation second!
Most of these points are obvious for the skipper but not so common for new team members on board. Therefore, the beginning of a sailing trip must always be preceded by a sort of briefing on right behaviour. The skipper must inform the passengers so that they are aware of all possible risks, and the passengers must strictly follow the skipper’s instructions.
We’ve put together some tips – keep these practices in mind and it will make life and relations on board easy, – you and your crew will only have to worry about which beach to relax at next or about choosing the best restaurant for dinner.
Create your pre-departure checklist (beside the equipment check- in list from charter company) This way nothing slips your mind and you are sure the clothing, groceries, important travel documents, medicines are on board. Ensure you are stocked with enough food and water for your trip including emergency provisions. Check for expiry dates on all provisions and safety equipment before you leave the marina.
Warm, sunny days are ideal for sailing, but you can’t always predict when a storm will roll in.
Be sure you and the crew are informed about weather conditions before sailing out. If you notice dark clouds, rough winds or sudden drops in temperature it might be time to spend few hours on land. Although there are weather predictions everywhere, the daily report isn’t foolproof. There are times when the weather can suddenly change for the worse while you are sailing. If this happens, you’ve got to have a backup plan on what to do and where to go.
And even if it’s a warm spring day, the water could instead reflect winter temperatures. In the event that your passengers get wet, make sure you have an idea how to get dry or seek help if needed.
The right clothing and footwear are essential for sailing, shoes with non-slip soles are especially important for docking manoeuvres. Apart from the movement of the boat itself, ropes, cleats and other equipment can easily harm you.
Be sure the whole team packs accordingly, with waterproof clothing, with lightweight t-shirts for protection when the sun is out, hats to avoid sunburns, heat strokes, etc.
It may sound obvious, but jackets and life belts that keep you from falling over board and should be an essential piece of safety equipment. Before you set sail, make sure that every passenger has tried on and correctly fitted their vest. If you are traveling with children be sure to check that the vests fit them correctly. Everyone on board should be clear on where to find their vest and how to use it. It’s a good idea to assign specific jacket to every crew member so that everyone knows which vest is his personal one.
A good rule is to start using life jackets if the winds reach force 6 on the Beaufort scale, however it’s also good practice for children to wear them at all times on board. If winds reach Beaufort force 6, you should start using lifebelts.
The number one cause of death while sailing is falling overboard when peeing over the side at night so don’t be tempted to skip the rules – attach safety belts to stable fastening points (and not to the ship’s rail)
No matter what level of sailing experience you have, always plan ahead of time. Check local charts of the area you plan to sail and study and plot your course before you set out. Familiarize yourself with local sailing rules and regulations. Check the weather and conditions to help you judge the best time for sailing, use them to guide your choice of attire and equipment needed. If any conditions are suddenly changing so that you can’t follow the schedule, you’ve got to have a backup plan on what to do and where to go. Let your team know about changes in your plans, explain the circumstances and dependencies.
Particularly with larger groups, it’s important that you have an action plan in the event of emergency. This is true for everyone on board – not just the skipper.
Run through drills for the most common issues you might encounter, (e.g. man overboard) and make sure everyone in your crew (including children) knows what’s going on. Show your crew where essential safety devices are (such as the first aid kit, flashlight, rocket launcher, fire extinguishers, WHF etc.), and how to use them.
The skipper must also be informed of any passenger health problems, diseases they suffer in order to be ready together with the crew for every eventuality.
Know your sailing area.
Inform yourself and your team about potential dangers or challenges in your sailing area. Always obey navigation rules, especially traffic regulations. Stay safe by keeping a good distance to other watercrafts.
Sail at a safe speed, especially in crowded areas and marinas, steer clear of large vessels that might have difficulties stopping or turning.
If there is a time to be careful, it should be when you are in unfamiliar waters. Water conditions can be different for every place, and this should pose some caution already. Don’t be in a rush, look for signs and other signals that may be cause for risk. Be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids.
Inform passengers of dangers during navigation in rough sea conditions, points on the boat that can be dangerous when sailing offshore. Explain how to move around, especially at night, when visibility is low.
Indicate the dangerous points of the boat, warn about possible dangers such as the boom, vang and hatches.
Explain your crew the boat handling process when entering or leaving harbour. Divide the crew tasks such as preparing the mooring lines and fenders before you start docking. Crew should be ready to help in correct order as instructed in advance by the skipper.
Before you start your engine, make sure all of your passengers are accounted in the boat and no one is in the water near the boat. Turn off the engine when approaching anyone in the water.
Watch children carefully while onboard. Don’t allow anyone to board or exit your boat from the water when engine is on.
Let passengers and crew know about the location and danger of the propellers, explain them the right behaviour in case if someone falls overboard.
Sailing and drinking are often depicted together, but this is an unsafe practice for everyone on board – not just the skipper. Drinking can impair judgment, hinder reflexes, and lead people to make unwise and unsafe decisions that can result in serious injury. Sun, wind and the swell of the sea will drastically increase the effects of alcohol.
So the best practice is to stay focused on board and to plan the wine tasting for evening time on dry land or in marina.
An empty stomach will lead to seasickness more easily than a full one, so tuck in before setting sail. We would advise to always pack a meal or snacks at home. It’s almost impossible for boating newbies to spend a long amount of time below deck, never mind preparing a full meal. No one wants to have their perfect sailing holiday ruined by an aching stomach!
If you’re someone who only enjoys swimming around beach or a pool, it’s smart to learn how to handle an emergency situation. You’ll want to know how to conserve energy, avoid undertows, and work with currents rather than against them. Consider an open water training.
Following these practices will make life on board easy, increase passenger’s interest towards the sailboat, ensure good relations with the crew and make the stay on board a pleasant and positive experience.