Over the years our checklist of Safety Recommendations has been widely respected as a clear and concise guide to safe cruising in small boats. Remember that it is a list of suggestions, not rules, from which sailors can take what action is appropriate to their boats and themselves. Safety is ultimately the responsibility of each individual.
1.0. The Boat
1.1 Should be insured with at least third party cover to protect yourself and allow you to attend events hosted by sailing clubs and other authorities that do not tolerate uninsured boats. 1.2 Sufficiently stable so the whole crew can sit on the gunwale without dipping it under the water. 1.3 With sufficient positive buoyancy to support stores and crew when flooded, and disposed so the crew can put the boat back into sailing condition unaided, after a capsize or swamping. Capsizing is a serious matter in a seaway; in rough seas, recovery can become impossible. 1.4 Hull, mast and rigging strong enough to withstand cruising stresses, and properly maintained. 1.5 With a mainsail capable of being reefed whilst at sea. Jib furling or reefing is desirable. Also consider carrying storm sails for strong winds. 1.6 Registered with the HM Coastguard approved RYA SafeTrx; its replacement for the official voluntary safety identification scheme, better known as CG66.
2.0. The Crew
2.1 Sufficiently experienced for the conditions expected. 2.2 Aware of their responsibilities under SOLAS and MCA regulations.. 2.3 Adequate for the dinghy: ideally one stone (14lbs) of crew weight for each foot of LWL (20kg/metre).
3.0. Equipment for cruising
3.1 Personal buoyancy for each member of the crew. 3.2 Waterproofs and plenty of warm clothing for each crew member. 3.3 Anchor: minimum 10lb (5kg). Anchor cable: minimum 30 metres of 8 mm non-floating material, with 2 metres of chain between it and the anchor, secured to a strong point inside the boat. 3.4 Strong bucket as well as a bailer, both with lanyards. A bilge pump is recommended. 3.5 Two oars and metal rowlocks secured by lanyards, plus one spare rowlock. Paddles are not an adequate substitute. 3.6 Drinking water and emergency food rations, sufficient for everyone on board. 3.7 Orienteering compass and chart or large scale local map. 3.8 Fire blanket or fire extinguisher. 3.9 Waterproof VHF radio, preferably with DSC. Consider LW radio receiver for shipping forecasts. 3.10 Mobile telephone in a waterproof pouch. 3.11 Powerful waterproof light and at least one spare torch. 3.12 First-aid kit. 3.13 Fog horn or whistle to give audible warning in thick weather.
4.0. Additional equipment for more extended cruises outside sheltered waters
4.1 Reliable steering compass, kept in one position and checked for deviation, preferably lit for night use. 4.2 Navigation equipment: charts covering the whole passage, pilot book, almanac, tidal atlas, leadline, handbearing compass, waterproof GPS or chartplotter. 4.3 Log book for passage planning notes and for recording the passage in progress. 4.4 Emergency radio beacon: EPIRB or PLB. 4.5 Repair kit and spare parts. 4.6 Effective radar reflector, if practicable. 4.7 Day and night flares in a waterproof pack. 4.8 For foreign waters the boat should be registered, display her number and carry registration documents.
You can download a pdf copy of the DCA safety recommendations here.
RYA SafeTrx: You can read about the scheme here and register your boat details here.
SOLAS: The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea is a large, complex, legal document covering many issues outside the scope of dinghy cruising activity. You can read more about it here. However you can download a leaflet from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency which explains how the regulations apply to small privately owned pleasure craft.
Puzzled by Recommendation 2.3? Read this article and all will be made clear.