With over 11 million boats registered for recreational use in the U.S., more people are taking pleasure in sailing and other water activities than ever before. Although sailing is a leisure-time activity, and a luxury yacht makes a great base for a relaxing holiday, safety on the water must always be a priority. This is especially true for anyone sailing for the first time. A course in basic seamanship will give you valuable safety information, and there are plenty of procedures and conventions with which you can become familiar before you set sail. Even on a skippered boat, it’s comforting to know you have a good grasp of safety arrangements, and that you understand how and when to use essential emergency equipment.
As a novice sailor, there can be a lot to learn, and sailing terms can be confusing. There are, however, very good safety reasons for using the correct terminology. For example, port and starboard never change, whereas whether something is left or right depends on where you are on the boat. With a bit of practice, you’ll pick up the fact that ropes are often called lines, and learn how to tie sailing knots. Every sailor should be able to tie basic knots to ensure the safety and security of the boat, and this is something you can practice at home before your trip begins. It’s also a fun way to engage with children and get them ready for their sailing adventure!
Although sailing at sea is safer than driving on the roads, it can still be very dangerous, especially when safety procedures are not followed properly. Children and non-swimmers must wear a life jacket at all times, even on calm waters. According to the US Coast Guard, drowning accounted for 75% of boating fatalities in 2017, and nearly 85% of victims weren’t wearing a life jacket. Ideally a life jacket, or at least a personal flotation device, should always be worn, but certainly when sailing on cold or choppy waters. Learn more about the different types of life jackets that are available for every boating activity.
Make sure all the crew members know exactly what to do if someone does go overboard, as even a strong swimmer can quickly lose the ability to keep afloat when they fall unexpectedly into cold water.
Before enthusiastically jumping aboard your holiday yacht, take some time to familiarize yourself with basic safety procedures, equipment, and terminology. If you are new to sailing, this will give you the peace of mind to relax and safely enjoy your first voyage, and all that being out on the open water has to offer.