A Guide to Boat Safety Gear

Boat Safety Gear

Boating is a pretty low-risk activity. If you take care of your gear, and keep an eye on the conditions, generally you should enjoy a relatively high standard of safety. But when things go wrong on the water, they can go wrong in a big way. When you’re out at sea, you need to be able to protect yourself if things go wrong and you end up stranded, or worse – in the water. So let’s take a look at five of the more common items of boat safety gear. We’ll run you through what they do, when you need, and why!

Lifejackets: they’re the key item of boat safety gear – here’s the lowdown

Of course, when it comes to boat safety gear one thing should come to mind straight away: lifejackets. Lifejackets are potentially lifesaving items of boat safety equipment, and they’re legally required in most boating situations. Not only that, but they also need to be accessible. Recently, a new law was brought into force requiring boat owners to clearly label where their lifejackets are, if they’re stored below deck, or out of sight. That means all passengers, whether new or experienced, should be able to locate lifejackets on your boat instantly.

V-sheets are a useful piece of boat safety gear – this is what they’re used for

V-sheets are another item of safety gear that is required on most boats. But a lot of skippers aren’t familiar with when to use them, so let’s have a look at that. V-sheets are used to signify that your vessel is in distress, but that it is not urgent, and there is no emergency. So what might that sort of situation look like? Say you’ve run out of fuel in a tidal waterway. You’re anchored safely, and the weather is fine, but you can’t get back to shore.

In that situation, it would be appropriate to display a v-sheet. That would attract the attention of passing vessels, which could work to help you back to shore. The situation wasn’t life-threatening, but you still required assistance. Of course, you could still use a v-sheet in a life-threatening situation, but there are more urgent items of safety gear that could help more.

EPIRBs: the kind of boat safety gear you’re going to want for offshore and remote trips

EPIRBs are an example of the sort of safety feature you could deploy in a life threatening situation on the water. EPIRBs emit a satellite signal that is detected by emergency services, who can then locate and rescue you. But it’s important never to deploy an EPIRB unless you’re in a life or death situation.

For example, if you were to have capsized a boat far offshore, your life would be at risk and you should use your EPIRB. But if you ran out of fuel on a lake or protected waterway, and there was no immediate danger, you should avoid using your EPIRB, and opt for a v-sheet instead.

Flares can get you out of a sticky situation, which is why they are a required item of boat safety gear

Flares are designed to attract attention in the same way as a v-sheet. However, flares should be used in situations of greater urgency. Flares are detected from significant distances, and will often attract the attention of emergency services. Our advice is to treat flares in the same way you would treat a call to 000.

Finally, the kill switch: here’s what this less-known item of boat safety gear does

Finally, let’s take a look at one of the more unrecognised items of boat safety gear: the kill switch. Kill switches are important on smaller boats especially. They work by attaching to your wrist, and activating a small switch that allows your engine to run.

The idea is that if you’re knocked overboard as the boat is moving, the cord around your wrist will pull the switch, and cut the engine. That way, you will be able to return to your boat. So make sure your engine and kill switch are in good condition – and make sure you use it!

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