Safety on board - Basic safety rules on board your yacht
Safety on board
Basic safety rules and codes of conduct
Whoever wants to be his own "captain", in other words the skipper, requires some vital skills and training to operate a yacht safely. If it is a yacht with more than 15 HP engine power, you need to obtain an official boating licence in Germany called "Sportbotführerschein See" for open water or "Sportbotführerschein Binnen" for inland waterways. Regulations in other countries differ widely.
For beginners, it is quite easy to get on the water as a "recreational captain". Charter options are available for boats that require no boating licenses. If you would like to sail on lager boats following your first experiences, courses for the official boating licenses are available over the winter months and you are ready in time to charter a yacht for your next summer vacation. Information on regulations and charter offers are available from the Association of Yachtcharter Companies in the Bundesverband Wassersportwirtschaft (BVWW) on www.charterboot.net.
Operating your boat safely In some areas, such as the Müritz/Havel waterway in East Germany, there is a special short time "charter licence" for holiday skippers who have not yet acquired a boating licence. The charter licence is issued by your local yacht charter company following a two hour instruction course. It entitles you to operate a yacht not faster than 12 km/h for your holiday trip. Accidents are very rare and usually only with minor damages. A point you should keep in mind to prevent accidents is that charter crews are not experienced in operating a boat, so take it slowly.
Be prepared! Life belts should always be worn to stay safe. And get yourself and the crew acquainted with all safety equipment on board and how to use ist. The skipper and crew should know how to operate the boat safely and how to use the equipment on board as well as be aware of traffic regulations on the waterways.
Minimum safety requirements The skipper should familiarize himself with the boat in detail before the trip. A good handover by the charter agent following a checklists makes sense. The equipment on charter boats must comply with safety regulations and must be tested regularly. The minimum safety equipment includes lifejackets for each person on board, appropriate means of fighting a fire on board and means of signalling an emergency. In addition, a bilge device (pump, bucket, bailer) and first aid equipment must be available. The safety equipment must be regularly checked, maintained and documented. And, of course. the crew should be instructed in how to use the safety equipment effectively. A clear distribution of tasks in an emergency at sea, e.g. one person listens to the radio while another takes care of possibly sick or injured people, has proven useful in many scenarios.
Local information Before the trip the skipper must inform himself about the area of travel and obtain special information, such as tide calendars or weather reports. Voyage planning includes updated nautical charts as well as suitable nautical guides of the area. A weather report needs to be obtained every day of your voyage before departure.
Practice vital manoeuvers Constant practical training is the best way to ensure that safety procedures work well in case of a real emergency situation. The man over board manoeuver is, obviously, the most important procedure that should be practiced regularly. Take the time to go through this procedure before every voyage, particularly if there are new crew or guests on board. Practicing the manoeuver will quickly prove how effectively skipper and crew can manage to return the boat to the person in the water. And do not forget to practice lifting a person back on board, which is not an easy task.
General codes of conduct For any kind of leisure activities on, in or under water, there are some basic rules that should generally be observed. Whoever spends their spare time anywhere near the water, should for their own safety always be able to swim safely as well as know and respect their own limits. Also, always leave a note with someone on shore about your planned trip, where you are heading and when you plan to be back. Wearing a suitable life jacket should be a matter of course for all boaters, whether sailors, motorboaters or canoeists, stand up paddler, kiters or anglers. For their own good and as a role model for young people, who are often rather hostile to this type of security measure.
Keeping these simple issues and procedures in mind will help a lot to make your cruise safe and all the more enjoyable.