Safety on a Charter Sailing Boat

Chartering a sailing boat for your holidays is not all about enjoying the sun and the sea. You should also bear in mind the safety of your crew, yourself as well as your boat. Safety on a sailing boat includes a range of activities and equipment.

Who goes first?

First, you should understand the right of way rules to avoid collisions with other boats. Right-of-Way (ROW) Rules are: a sailboat running free must keep clear of one close hauled; a sailboat close hauled on the port tack must keep clear of a sailboat close hauled on the starboard tack; when both boats are running free on opposite tacks the vessel with the wind on the port side must keep clear; and when both boats are running free on the same tack the boat to windward must keep clear.

Necessary equipment

Use a safety checklist to check the boat's equipment before setting sail. There should be enough life vests for everyone in the crew; fire extinguishers; horn, whistle or bell; flares; radar reflector, and all the necessary documentation.

Emergency procedure

Adopt a healthy attitude in case of an emergency - do not panic - and use a float plan to alert rescuers in an emergency. Make sure you and your crew wear a PFD (personal flotation device) at appropriate times - children should wear them all the time - since falling off the boat is the leading cause of boating fatalities. Using a safety harness in rough weather as well as when sailing solo is a smart idea. In case someone does fall overboard, you need to know crew-overboard (COB) maneuvers. You should also practice them in advance. 

Other safety tips

Another important sailing safety advice is to sail with the VHF radio turned in to monitor for distress calls and for other information.

You should also beware of sunburns, sun strokes, and hypothermia if someone falls overboard.