Safety boat solo crewing


What challenges are clubs currently facing when it comes to safety cover on the water?

Clubs have overcome a mountain of challenges when it comes to working within the current restrictions, the operation of a safety boat still being one of the most frequent topics for questions.

Can crews socially distance? What other mitigations can clubs deploy? What if the helm is in a higher risk group? What conditions should we launch?

The answer to all of these questions is different for each individual venue and it has been a challenge for committees to work through this with RDO support to reach the best and safest working practises.

How have things changed since the video was made?

For most clubs within England, the easing of restrictions to 1m+ has made it a little easier to operate a safety boat on a day to day basis. It is still good practise to have PPE available for both the helm and a potential casualty (face coverings etc.), but this may not be needed in all scenarios. It is worth noting that as we see spikes in COVID cases and the potential for local restrictions, clubs need to ensure that they keep abreast of current local restrictions that may apply to their safety teams.

What should solo safety boat crew consider before getting on the water?

As we saw in the video the proactive measures are simple but some of the most important changes to make. Can you reach the kit you may need (radio, throw bag etc.)? Do you have a means of making it easier for someone to help themselves into your boat without the need for you to physically intervene?

Having the Conservative club policy regarding the conditions in which people take to the water reduces the likelihood of needing rescue.

What are your top tips for a solo man overboard rescue?

It's not all muscles & brawn! For a conscious casualty make sure you have a step, stirrup, boarding ladder etc. readily available to deploy so they can easily climb into your boat with a little assistance from the helm if required. Make sure they are coming into a lower part of the craft not over a high point like at the bow.

If the casualty is injured or unconscious have a means of requesting extra help (VHF radio), remember life takes precedent and the main priority in these cases is the preservation of life. Check out the safety boat handbook for a variety of techniques to recover man overboard.

Anything else to consider?

Use this opportunity to brush up basic boat handling. If you are not used to single crewing you can feel a little exposed but it does tend to improve your boat handling as you use the boat not crew to perform manoeuvres. Practise holding off next to a buoy, this is the same as holding off a capsized dinghy or windsurfer whilst they recover themselves. Get the lines ready ahead of time when coming alongside, without the crew there to do some last minute grabbing of cleats, you should be able to slowly and calmly get the boat alongside and lines attached by yourself.

Will this compromise the duty of care?

If crews are competent and confident in their duties it shouldn't make any difference whether single crewing or two person crewing as it's not a change of standards or a lesser option, just a different way of deploying volunteers.

You may wish to ensure your members are aware that safety boat coverage is operated on a solo crew basis and maybe limited in the current climate. Those undertaking the role of safety boat cover must be comfortable operating the safety boat on a solo basis and any doubts should be discussed with your club.