Look after Yourself

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

The gear you will require differs for day boats and boats with eating and sleeping facilities, and it will vary depending on where you are boating and when. It is essential that you take the time to consider what equipment you need and that you know how to use it.

Make sure your boat is properly equipped before going on the water. The onus is on you to make sure you have everything you may need, as in the UK for pleasure vessels little is required by law. You would be mistaken to presume that because something isn’t legally required, you don’t need it.  Similarly servicing of equipment for smaller boats is not required by law, but you still need to check equipment regularly for wear and tear or damage and where applicable service it in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

The RYA has compiled guidance to help you consider what you need to have on board your boat.

Clothing:  keeping warm and dry is important. Once you start to get cold your ability to think and function properly will deteriorate; you also need to protect yourself from over exposure and dehydration on sunny days.

The more likely you are to get wet, the more technical your clothing requirements will become in order to keep you warm and dry. Clothes made from man-made fabrics may be preferable to cotton which soaks up body moisture and makes you cold.

Even if you don’t expect to get wet, protection from the elements makes a waterproof jacket and trousers necessary - don’t forget gloves and a hat for your extremities.  Always take spare clothing with you so you can add layers if necessary as it often feels colder on the water than it does on shore. 

Lifejacket or buoyancy aid: make sure you and your crew have the right personal safety equipment, that it is well maintained and fitted correctly. More information on lifejackets and buoyancy aids.

Cold water shock occurs well before the effects of hypothermia. It can happen at any time of the year; it only takes a water temperature of 15°C and below. It can cause a number of instant and powerful involuntary respiratory reflexes that can lead to death in minutes; wearing a lifejacket could save your life.

Wear your kill cord: if you are on an open powerboat or RIB make sure you wear the kill cord. If your boat is not fitted with one, then get one fitted. The kill cord should be attached around your leg. Always check your kill cord works before you go out on the water. Watch how to attach a kill cord correctly and read more about kill cords and powerboating safety.

Kill cord stickers for your boat are available from the RYA.

Carbon Monoxide: often dubbed the ‘Silent Killer’, Carbon Monoxide can kill quickly if inhaled in high concentrations. Check your fuel burning devices are safe. If you don’t have a CO alarm, install one and test it regularly. More information on carbon monoxide.

Sun protection: Those who participate in outdoor sport tend to spend prolonged periods under the sun, either having fun, training, or participating and are therefore at higher risk of sunburn and accumulated sun damage.

The RYA is proud to support Sunguarding Sport, a new campaign by the Melanoma Fund to raise awareness of sun protection to all in sport and outdoor recreation. The campaign features guidelines and advice and specific tips for individual activities. The following has been created in collaboration with the RYA for sailing and cruising:

  1. Apply a broad-spectrum product with an SPF 30 or higher, paying special attention to your ears, nose, and shoulders, as well as other areas which are especially sensitive and prone to burning.
  2. Check the expiry date of the sunscreen before use, especially if has been onboard for a while.
  3. Once applied to the skin, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or more often if you are prone to excessive sweating, or in and out of water.
  4. The sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm so, look to increase protection during these hours, particularly on clear, sunny days.
  5. A busy day sailing day will provide plenty of distractions, so get into the habit of applying sunscreen before you start activity.
  6. Using a sunscreen applicator, or cleaning palms with a small towel and alcohol gel, is a good way to avoid a greasy grip whilst sailing.
  7. Wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from all angles.
  8. Your forehead, scalp and ears are vulnerable areas, so a hat or hat is a necessity. We suggest a wide brim style with adjustable drawstrings to make sure it stays on in the wind.
  9. Wear clothing that protects arms and legs – tightly weaved clothing and long sleeve tops, where appropriate, are best!
  10. Watch for signs of dehydration: dry mouth, thirst, headache, dizziness. Stay hydrated by always keeping a bottle of water handy.
  11. Don’t forget to use a lip balm with SPF 30+ protection to ensure your lips are adequately protected and hydrated.
  12. Consider sunscreen without chemicals that can harm marine life.

To find out more visit: www.melanoma-fund.co.uk/sunguarding-sport