Sun, Sea and Safety: How to stay safe on the water this summer

2nd August, 2019 by Sutton Harbour Group

We urge you to think safety first around the water
We urge you to think safety first around the water

Time spent on and in the water during the summer months is one of the most popular holiday pastimes. Holidaymakers flock to the South West to enjoy our outstanding cruising grounds, stunning beaches and fantastic clubs and facilities.

We rank as the top region in the UK for the highest amount of water sport activities and events. According to a recent survey conducted by Arkenford, approximately 3.9 million UK adults took part in one or more boating activities in 2018.

It’s great to make the most of our (usually short-lived) summer by having fun on the water, especially when it’s so easy to access the outstanding cruising grounds and destinations that we are lucky to have easy access to from King Point Marina.

But it is also important to stay safe. So whether you’re heading out for an evening sail or a full day of fun water sports, it’s vital to be aware of some simple safety considerations that can easily get overlooked in the rush to get out on the water.

 

HAVE THE RIGHT SAFETY EQUIPMENT

As well as making sure the boat itself is safe to sail or drive, it’s essential to have the right safety equipment on board. Having a first aid kit is a good idea just in case an injury occurs whilst you’re out for the day, including waterproof plasters and bandages.

Key safety gear are life jackets for everyone on board – and they must be the right size. Life jackets must fit properly in order to be effective: they shouldn’t ride up above the ears when arms are lifted and they should be able to be fully zipped closed. It’s important to also make sure they are the right Newton rating for the weight of the wearer. There are four European standards for life jackets; 50, 100, 150 and 275.

Anyone on board under the age of 16 must wear a life jacket on an open boat or on deck. Unfortunately, life jackets aren’t an item that children can grow into, so buying a bigger size to last longer isn’t an option; they need to fit correctly at all ages. For more information on picking the right life jacket, click here.

WHAT TO DO IF THERE’S A MAN OVERBOARD

Accidents can happen when out on the water and it’s a good idea to be prepared for different scenarios. If someone slips and falls into the water, stay calm and slow down before you turn around safely to bring them back on board. Ensure you have a rope or lifeline on board to throw out for the person to hold onto. If you often take children out on your boat it might be a good idea to do practice drills for a ‘man overboard’ situation so everyone is less likely to panic if it happens.

If you’re the one who finds themselves overboard, it’s crucial not to panic. This can naturally be difficult but the RNLI offers sound advice on how you can best stay afloat and call for help:

  1. Fight the instinct to swim until the shock of the cold water passes
  2. Lean back and extend your arms and legs
  3. Gently move them around to float if you need to
  4. Float until you can control your breathing
  5. Then, call for help or swim to safety

PROTECT AGAINST THE SUN

Protecting ourselves from the sun is something we should all be doing daily but it is especially important when sailing out on the water with no shelter. Make sure everyone is wearing sun cream and that it is reapplied throughout the day – and the higher the factor the better. Wearing clothing such as rash vests and hats can also help protect from sun burn by up to 27%.

It’s also vital to stay hydrated and drink lots of water, especially if you will be out all day doing lots of physical activity. Wearing sunglasses won’t just make you look good, they are crucial for protecting your eyes against the sun so it’s best not to forget them.

DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE

It may seem like a nice idea to have a glass or two once you’re anchored at a stunning location but just like driving a car, you shouldn’t drink and steer a boat. Alcohol impairs your judgement, coordination and balance and being on the water can heighten those effects. If an accident should happen, alcohol, even in small amounts, when paired with long exposure in water can increase the likelihood of hypothermia.

Boat owners can be prosecuted for being intoxicated whilst in charge of a vessel. The Railways and Transport Safety Act states that it is illegal to operate a boat whilst over the drink-drive limit.

For more advice on staying safe at sea, take a look at our previous blog post.

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