Safety Equipment

Whether you download the eBook or not I thought I would share with you my safety equipment list. In the UK there are no legal requirements to carry specific safety equipment (for boats under 13.7 metres in length) and although there are many sites that provide you with lists it is always difficult to know where to draw the line. If money and space was no problem you would have everything possible on board. However, in reality, choices have to be made. For my safety list I have categorized everything with the intention that you should at least pick one or more items from each category. If you are not in the UK do please check the regulations within your country. My list is aimed at sail-boats, but whatever your craft I hope it will help you to compile your own list based on the categories below:-

Keeping out of, or recovering from, the water

  • Lifejacket with combined harness for each person on board, with crotch strap(s), a whistle, a light, yacht name, and retro-reflective material. Also, a safety line, as short as is practical but not more than 2m long, with a double-action snap hook at each end.
  • Lifebuoys for instant use with the yacht’s name on them and fitted with retro-reflective material. One equipped with a whistle, a drogue, a self-igniting light and a pole and flag (a danbuoy). A second lifebuoy or a life-sling that can be trailed from a buoyant line at least 30m long.
  • A buoyant throwing line or throw-bag, 15 to 25m long, readily accessible in cockpit.
  • A boarding ladder or other boarding device, either fixed at the stern or capable of being deployed by a person in the water.
  • Jackstays along port and starboard sides but as close to the centreline as possible and suitable points in the cockpit for clipping safety lines to.
  • A life-raft with an in-date manufacturer’s or approved agent’s inspection certificate, of sufficient capacity to carry all the crew likely to be on board or an inflatable dinghy carried inflated or a rigid dinghy with adequate buoyancy and oars.

(OK so you may think some of the above is not relevant to single-handing but one day you may decide to take a crew or you may be able to pick up someone overboard from another boat)

Keeping the water out

  • Two bilge pumps; one may be substituted with an electric pump, capable of operation with all hatches closed. Unless permanently fitted, bilge pump handles must be attached with a lanyard.
  • Two buckets of not less than 9 litres capacity, fitted with a lanyard and a strong handle.
  • A hand bailer for small boats.
  • A seacock on all through-hull fittings that are below or close to the waterline.
  • Softwood tapered plugs securely attached adjacent to each through-hull fitting so it can be blocked up.

Being seen, keeping a lookout and calling for help

  • Navigation lights and foghorn to comply with the International Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea for when sailing, motoring or at anchor.
  • Day signal shapes i.e. motoring cone and anchor ball.
  • Radar reflector permanently mounted, or capable of being hoisted to, at least 5m above deck with the largest practical RCS (radar cross-section), ideally at least 10m2.
  • A VHF marine radio transceiver with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) having an output power of 25W, audible from the helm, with a masthead antenna and a separate emergency antenna.
  • A hand-held waterproof VHF marine radio transceiver, ideally with Digital Selective Calling, plus an on-board battery charger.
  • A waterproof mobile phone or one in a waterproof bag/case (this should not be a substitute for marine VHF radio, just a back-up)
  • Binoculars, preferably of 7X50 size.
  • Water-resistant LED torch and batteries, a head-mounted LED light and a high powered searchlight.
  • An Automatic Identification System (AIS) if going anywhere near shipping channels.
  • A radio receiver and a NAVTEX for weather forecasts.
  • Distress flares, in-date, stowed in a watertight container:
    • 4 red parachute flares
    • 4 white hand held flares
    • 4 red hand held flares
    • 2 orange smoke
  • A satellite Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) registered with the appropriate authority and/or a registered Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) attached to each person.
  • If based in the UK, boat and contact details submitted using the Royal Yachting Association’s SafeTrx service so your details will be available to HM Coastguard giving them the information they need to mount a search and rescue operation if you get into difficulty (this used to be called the CG66 scheme). Go to or search for the app on your smartphone.

Staying put, steering, towing and propulsion

  • Two anchors each with a length of chain and warp, or chain only, suitable for the cruising area and size of boat.
  • Towing warp, if no anchor warp is carried.
  • Strong cleats or posts fore and aft for towing and being towed.
  • Fenders and mooring warps plus some 20 to 30m warps.
  • Emergency tiller or secondary steering device for wheel-steered yachts.
  • Storm headsail and either a storm trysail or deep reef in the mainsail.
  • Back-up propulsion (e.g. an outboard motor or a pair of oars or scull for smaller boats).
  • A backup system for starting your engine (e.g. hand cranking or a second battery reserved for starting).

Fire-fighting and fuel safety

  • When cooking or engine fuel is on board, one fire blanket and two multi-purpose extinguishers plus a fixed automatic or semi-automatic fire-fighting system in the engine-compartment. Put an extinguisher on either side of the stove in case you are on the “wrong side” when a fire starts.
  • Audible gas and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • All gas and spare/reserve petrol to be stored in appropriate vented lockers with overboard drains.

Navigational equipment

  • Up-to-date paper charts together with tide tables and other navigational publications.
  • The means to plot a position onto a paper chart (e.g. parallel rule, dividers, pencil, etc.).
  • A means of fixing a position at all times (e.g. GPS receiver, chart plotter, tablet).
  • Steering and hand-bearing compasses that can be read in the dark.
  • Echo-sounder plus a lead-line for backup.
  • A system for measuring speed through the water and/or over the ground.
  • A watch or clock.
  • A light, preferable a red or green one which will not affect your night-vision too much, to see charts, etc.

Personal safety and first-aid

  • A first-aid kit and instruction manual.
  • Protection from the sun, the wet and the cold and a spare set of dry clothes.
  • Spare spectacles.
  • It is highly recommended that each person on board carries a knife at all times whilst at sea.
  • A mobile telephone/cell-phone to keep those ashore informed of your whereabouts, plus a spare battery or a method of charging the battery while on-board.

Tools & spares

  • Toolkit suitable for general, rig, engine and electrical repairs.
  • Spare shackles, rope, pulley blocks, split-pins, self-adhesive sailcloth, fuses, bulbs, hose, hose clips, stove lighter, fuel, batteries, electrical wire, oil, grease, filters, drive-belts, pump impellers, water, self-amalgamating tape, etc.