On this page you will find comprehensive information, to help you ensure that your boat, yourself and any passengers are safe before and during any trip.
While it is certainly possible that you may never be in need of safety equipment, you will be thankful that you do in an emergency situation.
- Life jackets should not be considered an optional extra in any situation.
- However, you should ensure that it is of the correct size for your body weight, fitted properly and securely (preferably with a crotch strap or harness to prevent it riding over your head), and that it is regularly serviced to ensure it performs as expected.
- It is also advised to have a throwable flotation device, possibly attached to a long length of rope. This will greatly assist anyone who has fallen overboard. All passengers and crew should be aware of where the life jackets are and how to operate them in the event they do not automatically inflate.
- While a mobile phone can be used to contact emergency services, a VHF radio is a far better device to ensure prompt assistance.
- A VHF radio is not as dependant on additional masts and antennas, and has a much greater range. It is also much easier to pinpoint the source, meaning the emergency services will know exactly where you are. The added benefit is that any calls made on VHF Channel 16 can also be responded to by nearby boats that will quite likely be able to assist before the lifeboat arrives.
- A torch along with spare batteries and a fire extinguisher suitable for your type of boat should also be considered essential safety items.
- You should carry a detailed chart for the areas you are travelling in. Even if you do not understand everything on the chart, being able to work out your position and surrounding dangers is important.
- Spare rope is something that can be useful in any situation. A couple of decent lengths can act as anything from additional mooring lines, a tow line, a throwable line to a man-over-board or repairs to damage.
- Regularly check the Local Notices & Navigation Warnings page of this section.
- Understand the Beaufort Scale.
- Always check the latest Channel Islands Shipping Forecast issued by Jersey Met, and know latest tide times.
Other important equipment
It is also advisable to have the following safety equipment stored on board. They will almost certainly be useful in aiding a quick and safe resolution to any dangerous situations.
- GPS - this provides a backup for navigation. Be aware though that it should not replace your charts, but act as an additional confirmation of your location.
- Flares - nothing will attract help faster and clearer than a flare. Depending on the how far you intend to travel from land it is advisable to at least carry hand-held flares and also parachute flares. They should be stored in a watertight container and regularly checked that they are not out of date. Any out of date flares can be disposed of by handing them over to the police.
- Life raft - In the event of an onboard fire or if taking on water, you have the assurance that you and your crew will be safe until assistance arrives.
- Grab bag - It should be your last resort to abandon ship, but if needs be, don't forget to take your grab bag, full of essentials to see you out until assistance arrives.
- SART - Search and Rescue Transponders are used to locate a survival craft or distressed vessel by creating a series of dots on a rescuing ship's radar display.
- EPIRB - Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons when manually activated, or automatically activated upon immersion, send out a distress signal. The 406 MHz beacon which transmits a digital signal, can be uniquely identified (via GEOSAR) which provides instantaneous identification of the registered user and its location. EPIRB registration
- Batteries - this applies to both handheld devices such as radios and torches; but also to larger items such as your bilge pump. A bilge pump is no use without any power, so consider a dual charging system to provide a backup, preferably with the batteries in two different locations on the boat.
- Mobile phone - these are very useful regardless of situation, but as with the GPS, it should not replace your VHF radio.
- Tools - basic tools to allow simple repairs to an engine. Spare parts such as fuel filters, hosing and hull-bungs can prove invaluable.
Alcohol and drugs
Guernsey Coastguard strongly urge all mariners in charge of vessels to be aware of their responsibility for the safety of their vessel and its crew, and the adverse effect that even a small amount of alcohol and some prescription or recreational drugs will have on their judgement. We strongly recommend that mariners should not consume such substances whilst in charge of a vessel for the duration of the entire journey.
Fire safety on boats
Take the time to read through the following information:
Water skiing permits
Permits are issued by the States of Guernsey's Agriculture, Countryside, and Land Management Services.
Speed limits and restricted zones
Live Round Firing
Keep clear of the Fort Le Marchant firing range when the red flags are flying. On the day of firing, navigational warnings are broadcast by Guernsey Coastguard on VHF Channel 20.
The Humps and Brehon Tower
Boat owners and vessel operators are requested not to land on the Humps and to avoid the immediate vicinity between the 1st January and 31st July inclusive. These restrictions are necessary to protect the important breeding seabird colonies on these islets, which lie to the north-west of Herm. Boat owners, including kayaks etc, are also asked not to land at Brehon Tower at any time of the year. The interior of the tower is in an extremely dangerous condition and for safety reasons the public are advised to stay away.
A thorough maintenance routine can prevent many rescue situations by ensuring that your boat and its equipment can perform to the best of their ability.
The two most important items that can go wrong on a boat are the engine and the bilge pump. Both quite likely rely on the electrical system, which as a result of salt and damp is very susceptible to corrosion. This makes the electrical system a priority of boat maintenance.
All electrical lines and fixings should be installed with the aim of keeping them as dry as possible. Any connections should be kept clean and protected with water-repellent, non-conductive grease or a corrosion inhibitor.
As mentioned, a dual-charging system or a spare battery kept charged up is also important.
After the electrical system, the motor is the most important as for many boats it's the only means of power. You don't have to be a mechanic to ensure reliable operation. Regularly check the condition of hoses for both fuel and cooling systems as they are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperature changes throughout the year and can degrade and crack. A quick visual check of all the hoses can ensure that they haven't begun to leak, or are likely to in the future. As long as an engine has a consistent supply of air, fuel through its hoses, a strong electrical supply and suitable cooling it will continue to run.
Fuel & oil
Ensuring oil levels are correct will keep the engine working well. Topping off your fuel tanks before leaving the harbour is best, however if you can't do that, ensure you have enough fuel for the distance you intend to cover with enough extra to allow for any changes.
Pre season checklist
- Check your engine and mechanical equipment. Have a service or service it yourself.
- Check all emergency and lifesaving equipment, from harnesses to VHF. Are the batteries on your EPIRBs and personal locator beacons in date? Have your lifejackets and liferafts been serviced?
- Check your rigging:
- Standing rigging: If it's more than 10 years old, your insurance company might not cover it and it might need to be replaced. Have it surveyed and be secure in the knowledge that it won't let you down.
- Running rigging: Check for wear and chafe, particularly around wire-to-rope joints and Talurit splices.
- Do you have an outboard? If you don't use it very often, have it serviced or, if you know how and are confident, service it yourself. If you left it down in the water through the winter it can easily foul up from the inside. Fuel can deteriorate if the outboard is not used often..
- Check flares and make sure they're in date. Think about buying one flare every year. You will soon have a supply of working flares without having the expense of having to replace all your flares at once.
- Check the condition of seacocks and other through-hull fittings. If they're not made of real bronze, they can degrade. Check for free movement, and make sure they're absolutely secure. It's worth checking, if you still have the paperwork, whether they are made of real bronze or a cheaper material, which might fail.
- Check your freshwater system. It's been a cold winter. If not drained at the end of last season, pipework might have suffered.
- Replace your anodes, even if they don't look worn. Depletion can take place out of sight. Boats left afloat in a marina can suffer quite rapid deterioration of metal fittings and anodes.
- Check the anchor and cable, as these are often forgotten and sit in a nasty, damp locker. If you don't use your anchor often, the cable could be rusting away. Revitalise your depth markers, whether that's repainting them on to the chain, adding new cable ties, or refreshing your own method of marking the cable.
- Don't think you're as prepared as you were at the end of last season. Things have a habit of not working. Taking the time to do these checks now could mean you don't become a statistic the following season.
Gift ideas with a lifesaving twist
If you have a coastal-lover in your life, from paddleboarder, kayaker to coastal walker, here's some gift ideas with lifesaving potential to help with your Christmas shopping.
Gifts you can't put a price on - for all budgets
Some of the items are free while others cost from just a few pounds. Whatever your budget, give a gift that will help keep your loved ones safe out on the water and around our coastlines all year - a gift not just for Christmas.
It's a great idea to take a fully charged phone to the coast so you can call Guernsey Coastguard and ask us for help if you need it.
If you're heading out on the water, we recommend taking a phone in a waterproof pouch and keeping it within reach. They're widely available at outdoor/watersport retailers and online.
Lifejackets can improve survival rates in cold water by four times and should be worn by those on sailing yachts and motor cruisers as well as people fishing off rocks and piers. Some have locator beacons which signal your location to the emergency services and a light that helps your chance of being spotted after dark. Get the right size with a light and whistle, ensuring it is appropriate for your activity.
Buoyancy aids are suitable when there's a chance you might get wet - for example, kayakers, canoeists, rowers and dinghy sailors. Find out more lifejackets and buoyancy aids.
A Personal Locator Beacon, or PLB, will alert the emergency services that you need help and where you are if you get into difficulty on land, sea or anywhere in the world. Make sure it is registered and your information is up to date.
A lifesaving gift that doesn't cost a thing. Download the RYA SafeTrx safety app onto your loved one's Apple or Android phone. For all sea and coastal users, the app monitors your activity and alerts emergency contacts should you fail to return home on time. There's also a registration only option available online. Find out more.
If you know someone who enjoys a cold water dip or open water swim, why not get them a bright swimming cap to increase their visibility in the water or even a tow float. Get them a changing robe, woolly hats, big towels - all things to help keep them warm after a chilly swim.
It's important to be able to call for help and have the means to keep as comfortable as possible while waiting for help to arrive. A spare mobile phone battery pack is always useful, an LED torch can be used to signal for help in poor light or darkness while a vacuum flask or travel mug containing a warm drink will keep your spirits up. Costing from just a few pounds, a survival blanket or bag is compact and lightweight and will help provide cover against chilly winds and rain.