Safety Spotlight – Setting out to sea? Know ‘the ropes’ on safety

When you’re heading out on the water, for a sail, a surf or a paddle on that new or well-loved boat or personal watercraft such as your dinghy, kayak, canoe or paddleboard, knowing ‘the ropes’ when it comes to safety could be a lifesaver.

No matter how short a trip you may be planning, please do bear in mind that sea conditions can change in the blink of an eye. Being prepared will give you the best chance of getting home safely if things go unexpectedly wrong.

It was a late night... Credit Littlehampton Coastguard Rescue Team

Know who to call

There are lots of free and widely available resources out there that will ensure you can call for help in the event of a mishap. A mobile phone in a waterproof pouch is one of the simplest ways to ensure you can call us on 999 in an emergency

See the useful links further down in this post that gives the best safety advice from our partners the RNLI, the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) and top tips if you do find yourself in the water from the RLSS (Royal Lifesaving Society) this DrowningPrevention Week.

The sea is unforgiving – the moments it went wrong
 Every year we’re on call 24/7 and we respond to thousands of incidents where people are difficulties around our coasts and in our waters.

The one thing to remember is that while the sea is a fantastic place to be, it can also be very dangerous. If things can go wrong, they probably will and when you least expect it. In the last week, these are just a few of the things that went wrong: 

Credit Ventnor CRT

 Sail cut short in Shanklin
– on 24 June, a sailing vessel was spotted aground in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. Water had leaked in and had to be pumped out and repairs made before it was ready to sail again. The Shanklin Independent Lifeboat went along and our Ventnor Coastguard Rescue Team, thankfully the people were found safe and well.

Littlehampton breakdown: A much loved old sailing vessel was given an outing but the trip was anything but a pleasure as it ended up as a cold, wet and late journey home for the owners.  It broke down and before calling for help, the family decided to enter the water and battle the outgoing tide in an attempt to push the small vessel to shore. That didn’t work and fast-approaching midnight, our teams were alerted and our Littlehampton Coastguard Rescue Team and the RNLI lifeboat soon helped them back to dry land.

Liverpool ‘cat’astrophe? : Last weekend a 31ft yacht and a catamaran both got into difficulties in Liverpool bay. Faulty engines and strong winds gave their crews a big fright.  Mechanical failure is the single biggest cause of rescue call outs to sailing and motor cruisers for the RNLI lifeboats, representing nearly 20% of all launches. Coastguard Rescue Teams went to their aid as well as lifeboats from Hoylake, Rhyl and West Kirby.

Credit: Dan Whiteley, Hoylake RNLI

Family’s fright in Pensarn, North Wales: Four children, a man and the family dog narrowly avoided an inflatable dinghy and paddleboard disaster last weekend. Strong currents and winds meant they were being pulled out to sea and needed help. Thankfully they stayed with their craft as the Llandudno and Rhyl Coastguard Rescue Teams and the RNLI went to help and they were all recovered safely to shore.

Be prepared

  • Always ensure you have a life jacket or PFD for everyone on board, and that they are being worn.
  • Have a means for calling for help. Mobile phones in a waterproof pouch are good but further out at sea a VHF radio is the best means for raising assistance. The RYA’s SafeTRX app is free to use and allows you to share details of planned trips as well as a dynamic location alert in the event of distress. It’s great for sailors and all types of coastal recreation.  
  • As a back-up way of alerting people to a vessel in distress flares are an internationally recognised signal. Carry flares on board and ensure that they are in date.
  • If you regularly use certain stretches of water having local charts and tide times are a great way of ensuring you don’t get caught out on hidden sandbanks or shallow areas.
  • Before you leave, check the weather forecast. Weather and sea conditions can change very quickly. Keep abreast of any possible changes and make sure you are prepared.

Don’t be afraid to call for help.

Alerting the Coastguard to a situation won’t always cause an emergency response, and in fact could prevent an escalation. Even if you have a situation under control our Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres can check up on you, and know whether further resources are needed if a member of the public calls 999 on your behalf.

In an emergency on the coast or out to sea call 999 for the Coastguard, or use channel 16 on the VHF radio to raise the alarm. 




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