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Safety on the Sea

These images were reproduced with the kind permission of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution of the U.K. For over 170 years the volunteer crews of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution have been saving lives at sea. Since the RNLI's Foundation in 1824, over125,000 lives have been saved.

The following are safety guidelines and suggestions. For more detailed information, please view the Safety Resources page which contains links to the U.S. Coast Guard safety pages, the National Safety Foundation, the U.S. Power Squadron and the Coast Guard Auxiliary as well as an on-line boating safety course.


  1. Decide on the type of boat that you can handle and is most suitable for your purpose.

  2. Make sure it is good condition.

  3. It is worth considering an independent survey. Surveyors can be located on the "Associations" page on this site.

  4. Find out what equipment you will need. Required equipment varies by size and type of boat. Check the safety resources page on this site.

  5. Seek advice from owners of the same make and model. An internet search will usually provide a good starting point. We are also building a resource data base of owners. If you would be willing to be a reference for other boaters, click on the "Boat Owners - we need your help" button.
catching a buoy GET SOME TRAINING

  1. Before putting to sea, for your family's sake, you MUST acquire basic skills in Seamanship, Navigation, Rules of the Road, use of safety equipment and boat/engine maintenance.

  2. Your skills, and those of your crew, are your greatest asset, particularly if things go wrong.

  3. Join a suitable sailing or boating club.

  4. For information on where training is available in your aread, check the "Safety Resources" pages on this site. If you have questions about training or available courses, please e-mail us or call 1-800-4SEATOW.

catching a buoy
Dogger Bank

  1. Check the weather forecast by:
    • Listening to the shipping or local radio forecast or by tuning into the weather channel or your local TV station.
    • Checking the latest marine forecast (Marine Weather on this site).
    • Telephoning the Coastguard or listening to the weather reports on the VHF.

  2. Check the condition of the boat and its equipment

  3. Ensure the engine is well maintained. Carry a tool kit and essential spares.

  4. Ensure safety equipment is provided for all on board

  5. Check on local conditions e.g. tide races, areas of shallow water and know the "Rules of the Road" (on the Safety Resource Page on this site) - Your life may depend on it.

  6. Obtain relevant charts and tide tables

  7. Plan the trip:
    • How long will it take?
    • Who will keep watch?
    • What access do you have to safe havens en route?
    • What are the alternatives?

Note: For a quick lesson on what to do if you are ever in a position like our unlucky friend to the left, please see "Salvage" on our Safety Resources Page.

catching a buoy
rough going
  1. File a float plan with someone you can trust - the Coast Guard recommends a friend, family member or other responsible party.
    • Include departure and arrival times
    • Point of destination and route
    • Description of the boat
    • Names of all persons on board and a contact number ashore.

  2. If you change any of the above, remember to inform your contact ashore and be sure to call when you are safely back into port.

  3. Ensure that parked vehicles and trailers do not obstruct slipways or access for emergency vehicles/lifeboats and are above the high water mark

  4. Know your limitations:
    • Sail within your own ability and that of your crew
    • Ensure you have sufficient experienced crew for the trip, particularly if it is overnight
    • Know the limitations of your boat
    • Do not overload the boat as it will make it unstable

Move on to Part 2
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