The RYA's seven common senses for safe sailing 

With just a few simple reminders, keep you and your crew safe on the water this season

Wide shot of crew on training day 

There’s no better way to get away from it all than enjoying time on the water.

Whether you’re cruising a local coastline, inland waterway, or even somewhere further afield, make sure your trip is memorable for the right reasons.

To ensure safe sailing for everyone onboard, remember to know your limits, look after yourself, keep in touch, and above all, have a plan. 

Here’s a reminder of our 7 Common Senses for safe sailing when out on the water…

1. Is all your equipment seaworthy and suitable?

safety kit check 

You, your boat, board, personal watercraft, and any crew need to be properly equipped for a safe and enjoyable time on the water. 

Make sure you wear suitable clothing to keep you warm and comfortable. Once you start to get cold your ability to think and function properly is reduced. 

Do you need a buoyancy aid or life jacket? You, and anyone else onboard, should have personal safety equipment that is well maintained and fitted correctly for safe sailing.

A common cause for needing to be rescued is equipment failure. Equipment should be regularly serviced and regularly checked for any wear or damage.

2. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back

Man using VHF onboard boat

Always let a responsible friend or family member know where you’re going, when you’re likely to be back and confirm to them once you have returned. Consider using the free RYA SafeTrx app to help with this. 

Depending on the type of boating you do, you might need a way to keep in touch. At the very least, you should carry a mobile phone. A VHF radio is better, but you’ll need an operator’s license to use it legally. 

If your VHF isn’t DSC capable, you can carry a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) so that your location can be pinpointed quickly in an emergency.

3. Obtain a forecast for the local sailing area

wide shot of a boat sailing in good weather

To avoid being caught out by changing conditions, always check the forecast in advance. It is also advisable to look at multiple weather sources. If you are sailing at a new location, try to seek advice from someone with local knowledge.

Always have a plan and consider: the local area and your route, the tide and currents, navigation dangers, daylight hours and any other constraints.

4. Are you capable of handling prevailing conditions?

wide shot of poor sailing conditions on cloudy day

Always ensure you are adequately experienced to handle the conditions you are going out in. Identify your limits and those of anyone else you are with.

You can’t plan for all eventualities. However, it is important to be honest with yourself and only go out in conditions suitable to your ability and equipment. Relevant and necessary training will also help you to enjoy and practice safe sailing.

If in doubt, don’t go out.

5. Safe Sailing with others

wide shot of women sailing with other boats

Always avoid boating alone. Not only do you learn from your boating buddies, but there will always be someone close by should you need a hand.

6. Avoid strong tides, offshore winds, and poor visibility

sailing with reduced visibility in the fog

Offshore winds and strong tidal steams shouldn’t be underestimated. Sailors and windsurfers can often be caught out and swept away from the safety of their chosen sailing area. It is essential that you understand the conditions you are going out in and what consequences could occur.

Avoid poor visibility, it prevents you from seeing dangers and others from seeing you should you get into difficulty.

7. Consider other water users

Rib and yacht sailing together

Many locations can often be busy with other water users. You should respect others both on and off the water by following local restrictions and speed limits. Give others plenty of space and take all action necessary to avoid collisions or any other type of incident or accident.

Find out more

The 7 common senses are part of the syllabus for the RYA National Sailing and Windsurfing training schemes. Discover more about RYA courses and publications to support your boating in our training hub or the RYA shop. 

For further information on safe sailing, visit the RYA Safety hub.