Kitting your boat out with the full safety rig is never cheap, but for the knowledge and peace of mind that you and your family are safe at sea, it’s worth every penny


Only boats over 13.7 metres are legally required to ensure they are carrying lifejackets, liferafts, flares and fire extinguishers when they go to sea, however, you’d be silly not to carry them on smaller seagoing vessels too.

It’s well worth ensuring the skipper and all the crew are well acquainted with all the safety kit on board as you just never know when you’ll need to use it.

The RYA offers specialist short courses on offshore safety, sea survival, first aid, and courses for all equipment use on small boats. The RYA also publishes safety at sea books on their online shop.

When arriving on board, especially after the winter, and before casting off make sure you do all engine and safety checks. Here’s a rough checklist to bear in mind:

  1. Check the seacocks are open
  2. Check the bilge for water and gas/diesel fumes
  3. Turn the batteries on
  4. Check the engine oil levels
  5. Check the raw water strainers
  6. Check the coolant level in header tanks
  7. Test the fuel pre-filters for water/contamination
  8. Check the power steering fluid
  9. Check your fire and gas alarms
  10. Test the gearbox oil
  11. Check the power trim fluid
  12. Check all fire extinguishers
  13. Turn the fuel on
  14. Remove the shore power cable

When doing safety kit checks, it’s recommended you use an approved servicer for your brand of lifejacket, liferaft and other safety kit. Unapproved servicers may not have correct parts, such as the one use vacuum-pack bag in which your liferaft is packed.

Liferafts: liferafts will only be as good as you maintain them, and regular servicing is needed, however, after about 10 years they will begin to weaken, and possibly not inflate when used.

It is highly recommended you organise a waterproof grab bag, and have it readily available on every trip. Useful items to include are:

  • Hand held VHF radio
  • Hand held GPS
  • Spare batteries for the above
  • EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons)
  • PLB (Personal Locator Beacons)
  • Sea sickness tablets and personal medication
  • Torch
  • Extra flares
  • Warm clothing and blankets are ideal, however, there just may not be room for bulky items.

A good liferaft servicer will pack extra items into the raft if you ask, assuming there’s enough space.

Lifejackets: keep lifejackets in a dry place on board to avoid corroding and rusting canisters. Lifejackets need servicing, otherwise welding may start to fail. A ship wheel logo determines compliance with the EU Marina Equipment Directive.

A lifejacket will turn an unconscious person into a safe position, helping to prevent drowning. Lifejackets will come with a sprayhood, which aids breathing, a torch and a whistle. Crotch straps will stop the lifejacket from rising up over the head of the wearer once in the water.

Flares: Make sure all on board know where the flares are and how to use them.

It is illegal to dispose of flares in regular rubbish disposal bins, dump them in the sea or set them off without good reason. You can get rid of them at the place you bought them, or at your marina, liferaft service station, or council recycling centre.

Other essential kit includes:

A first aid kit

Fire extinguishers

Radar reflectors: these should be used on all seagoing vessels of less than 150 gross tonnage if it’s practicable, to enable detection by vessels using radar.

Man overboard equipment such as a life ring or a dan buoy etc.

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