Sail Safe with the RYA's 7 Common Senses

09 Nov 20

With varying levels of coronavirus restrictions affecting boating around the UK and overseas, the RYA is encouraging all members and water users to be considerate and conservative if and when getting afloat.

For information and advice on recreational boating during the coronavirus pandemic and the latest restrictions, please visit our guidance page.

Our guidance on safe boating remains unchanged; know your limits, look after yourself, keep in touch and above all, have a plan. 

If you are planning to head out on the water in the coming weeks, remember to use the RYA’s 7 common senses and sail safe…

1. Is all your equipment seaworthy and suitable?

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

Make sure you are wearing suitable clothing to keep you warm and comfortable. Once you start to get cold your ability to think and function properly will deteriorate. 

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. A common cause of need for rescue 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

Always let a responsible friend or family member know where you’re going, when you’re likely to be back and confirm that 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

To avoid being caught out by changing conditions, always check the forecast in advance. It is also advisable to look at a number of weather sources. If you are sailing at a new location, it is prudent 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?

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 cannot plan for all eventualities, but being honest with yourself, going out in conditions suitable to your ability and equipment, as well as getting the necessary training will help you be safe and enjoy your boating more.

If in doubt, don’t go out.

5. Sail with others

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

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

Many locations can often be busy with other water users. You should respect all others both on and off the water by following local restrictions and speed limits, giving others plenty of space and taking all action necessary to avoid collision 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. For further information about RYA courses and publications to support your boating visit or

Or visit the RYA Safe Boating information hub for more information and advice.

Please make sure you are familiar with and adhere to any coronavirus restrictions in your local area. For all the latest coronavirus guidance for RYA members, clubs, centres and recreational boaters, please visit the RYA Coronavirus Hub.