Staying Safe at Sea – Boat Safety Equipment & Checklist

  • Post category:Safety
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Safety has always been a core part of Marintech Marketing. We believe that a great boating adventure always starts with being safe while you are out at sea. Nothing beats being well prepared while you are in the middle of a crisis in the vast ocean. On that note, the team at Marintech will be releasing a “Staying Safe at Sea” series of articles that will cover several topics on safety.

Look forward to articles such as the following:

  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)
  • How to use a VHF (& DSC) plus local VHF channels in Singapore
  • How to Anchor Securely and Safely
  • Sailing at Night – Navigation Lights
  • What are Liferafts & Grab Bags – Do you need one?

In this very first article of the series, we will explore the essential and necessary equipment that every boater needs in order to keep yourself and the rest of your crew safe while out boating. Even with the best equipment available, the most common sailing accidents are related to steering, rigging, grounding, capsizing and fire. Heavy keeled sailing boats are difficult to capsize even in the very stormy weathers. It is unlikely but it is always good to be prepared.

As you may expect, even before you sail, checking your steering system, rigging, making your sail plans are accurate and reading the weather well etc. will reduce the safety risk to a minimal level. Prevention is always better than cure.

When it comes to safety on board, there are some essential equipment that are mandatory by law. There are also extra equipment that a boater should consider having. In this article, our scope will be limited to pleasure and recreational crafts registered locally in Singapore. The essential safety equipment required by law in Singapore are listed in the Maritime Port Authority’s (MPA) safety check list below. If you’re from aboard, you could follow your local authority’s mandated safety equipment list and use our local one as a guideline. These are the basic items that through years of boating and sailing, experts have determined to be most basic yet critical equipment. You’ll also need them to pass your boat inspection. 

Essential Boat Safety Equipment

Safety Equipment List extracted from MPA's Singapore-Registered Pleasure Craft Guidebook

The Singapore-Registered Pleasure Craft Guidebook produced by MPA is extremely useful and handy to have around. It includes boating guidelines, navigational tips, collision prevention practices and much more. With regards to safety at sea, MPA leads the Safety@Sea Singapore initiative. It is an industry-wide effort to increase awareness of safe practices and inculcate a safety-first culture at sea. You can found out more about Safety@Sea here.

Instead of purchasing the items just for the sake of passing the boat inspection. It is important to know what you’re buying and how to use them in an emergency. We’ll go through what a boater should take note of regarding some of the safety equipment.

VHF Radio

In the case of loss of power onboard during an emergency, it would be advisable for your handheld or fixed mount VHF radio have an emergency battery

Chartplotter & AIS

Ensure your Electronic Navigation Positioning System (Chartplotter) GPS’s is working and is showing AIS information correctly

Lifejacket

Lifejackets need to be maintained and serviced at regular intervals. Most non-inflatable lifejackets are one-size-fits-all but inflatable jackets do come in different sizes. This is often overlooked by boaters. Finding out that fits is important

Lifebuoy

A buoyant lifeline & water-activated light should be attached securely to lifebuoys so they can be used instantly used in an emergency

Red Hand Flares

Ensure that the hand flares on board your boat are not expired or damaged. Always keep them in a water-tight container.

Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers on board should be of the correct class and volume correctly sized. We highly recommend every boater to learn & commit to memory, the classes and usage of fire extinguisher

Anchor

An anchor can be a life saver in an emergency, ensure that you know how to deploy your anchor safely and securely  (We’ll cover this topic in a future article)

Navigation Light

Sailing at night? Ensure that your navigation lights are working. It is not required for smaller vessels like dinghies but we high recommend having them onboard

Additional Boat Safety Equipment

In addition to the items in the essential list above, we highly recommended that any boater consider having some additional safety equipment onboard their vessel while out at sea.

  • Grab bag containing essential items such as handheld VHF, handheld GPS, extra batteries for handhelds, red hand flare, food/water, first aid kit, light sticks, personal locator beacon etc.
First Aid Kit

Ensure your first aid kit comes with a tweezer, bandages and a splint

Fire Blanket

A fire blanket placed right beside a grill or stove can easily put out a grease fire

Rudder/Oar/Paddle

Helpful when your engine or steering system breaks down

Radar Reflector

Fog and low visibility in crowded waters? A radar reflector will help you to be seen

Jacklines/Lifelines

Prevent yourself, crew or passenger from falling and swept aboard by securing a lifeline to a jackline

Knife or Multi-Tool

Having a knife or multi-tool with you at all times while boating can be a lifesaver

Grab Bag

Grab Bag containing essential items such as handheld VHF, food/water, first aid kit, light sticks, personal locator beacon etc.

Personal Locator Beacon

A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) can be attached to a lifejacket and activated if one falls overboard and is separated from the vessel

EPIRB & SART

Having a EPIRB/SART onboard provides almost unlimited range and coverage when sending a distress signal

Radar

Install a radar on your boat to identify other vessels who have switched off their AIS or help to navigate in the dark

Woah! You might be thinking now that the additional safety items above seems like a lot of equipment to have on board! You might be wondering if you really need them all? If you own (or are considering to purchase one), we always advise that you should be pragmatic about your purchases with regards to additional safety equipment. This is especially true for GMDSS and marine electronics.

If you’re only going out from the marina for a weekend sail in local waters or coastal cruising, you probably won’t need a satellite rescue tool such as an EPIRB. Usually, sending out a distress call via VHF and AIS is sufficient due to the high number of boats in our congested local waters.

However, if you’re intending to sail out of our local Singapore waters (once the Covid-19 situation blows over) into deeper waters, we highly recommend having extra safety equipment on board. When you’re sailing in the vast ocean, a VHF with a range of 20 nautical miles isn’t going to be of much help. Even if you do send a distress signal via an EPIRB, the rescue is going to be delayed. A well-equipped grab/ditch bag (with key items such as emergency food, water, hand flares) or a proper (and maintained!) liferaft can be of immense help.

Now that you have a basic idea of the necessities to keep you safe at sea, contact us if you need help to assemble or acquire any of the safety equipment listed above (yes, even lifejackets for dogs!)

In our next article of the “Staying Safe at Sea” series, we will explore the basic concepts and usage of Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) on a boat.