Boating safety

by Adrian Waters

Before setting off in your boat you should ensure that you are safely equipped and ready if any problems should arise.

Boat Safety

Firstly you should establish your boat has a Boat Safety Scheme Certificate (BSS); essentially a boats version of an MOT. It will make certain that all electrical, gas and fuel systems pass before the boat can be eligible for a cruising licence and allowed to pass down UK inland waterways. The certificate will last 4 years, at which point afterwards you'll need a re-examination.

It is now deemed necessary to know what to do in a man overboard situation, the basic procedure can be learnt at the The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) courses. You will be shown what to do in the event of a man overboard and be shown how to prevent it.

Marina safety

When two boats meet head on, it is traditional for them to pass port to port by altering to starboard, the right of the driver, to avoid any collisions. In some cases you may need to use your horn signals to advise other boat users as to where you are going. One short blast "I am turning starboard side and will leave you to port side."

  • Two short blasts "I am turning port side and will leave you to starboard side."
  • Three short blasts "am reversing my engines."
  • One long blast "I am now getting underway."
  • One long blast followed by one short blast "Open the drawbridge please."
  • Five short blasts "Danger, please move out of the way, or, don't do what your signal indicates you are about to do."

If the boat user has understood the sound blast they will repeat the message, if they do not they obviously haven't heard or do not understand, therefore it should be repeated.

Buoys are used like road signals but directing water users rather than vehicles, around a safe course, to avoid rocks, shoals and wrecks that are unseen through the water.

Non-motorised craft such as dinghies and yachts have the right of way over powerboats, as they might have a much harder time changing course abruptly. Larger vessels passing these water craft, as a matter of politeness, should pass at a slow speed to avoid upsetting them with a strong wake. On the other hand ships have a right of way over all water craft because of their slow manoeuvrability.

Staying safe

When preparing yourself and your passengers for any trip on the water each of you should be equipped with floatation devices. For more active boating, such as canoeing, kayaking and dinghy sailing a buoyancy aid is most appropriate, where as motorised craft and large yachts should be accompanied by a life jacket.

If you are sailing with children more precautions should be made; such as wearing their life jacket or buoyancy aid at all times and ensuring that there is an adult at their side. They should also be dressed in sensible clothing such as non-slip deck shoes and whatever the weather warm clothes should be on board, should they fall in to the water.

Towing your boat

When towing your boat there are a few rules that must be followed to ensure that you can have a comfortable and easy ride to your boating destination.

The speed limit is 60mph on both motorways and dual carriageways, and a 50mph limit on single carriageway roads. Also you must not use the outer lane of a three or more lane motorway unless instructed to do so.

For small trailers without brakes, the weight should be no more than 50% of the cars kerb weight or 750kg, depending on which is less. For large trailers with brakes, they must not weigh more than 85% of the cars kerb weight. It is also a legal requirement for the brakes to work, whether they are used or not.

You must also be licensed by holding a group A or category B, which allows you to tow a boat trailer up to a maximum weight of 8.25 tonnes. You must have at least third party insurance for both the tow car and the trailer. The number plate on the trailer must be identical to the tow car.

No sharp or dangerous points of the boat must be on show. You can use a bucket or reinforced carrier bags to cover propellers and masts. All indicators and lights must work on the trailer before setting off.

As well as following the sensible rules, it is also always an idea to do a third less speed as normal due to the fact that you are transporting a larger item than usual and avoid any sudden movements.

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