Recommended safety equipment for cruising

The safety equipment required on board a commercial vessel, such as our Sigma 38 ‘Rho’, is outlined by the MCA. The equipment is checked on an annual basis and essential safety equipment such as life jackets and life rafts are required to be serviced and certified as suitable for use by registered service centres. A boat which has been chartered in the UK will be a registered commercial boat and so will be required to carry the MCA compulsory equipment.

If you own a boat or you are sailing on a boat owned by family/friends (a ‘pleasure’ vessel) there is no MCA requirement to carry certain equipment, but there is a list of equipment recommended by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association). There is a common sense approach to what should be on board a boat, life jackets and a life raft, for example, but making sure you have the most appropriate equipment for the type of sailing you plan to undertake will ensure you and your crew remain safe.

Most sailing passages can be categorised into sheltered, inshore, offshore and ocean. Suitability of the boat for the area you are planning to sail is just as important as the equipment on board. Boats sold after June 1998 are categorised under the EU Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) to identify the types of conditions a boat is suitable for:

Category D – Sheltered Water
Operating by day and within 1 hour of a safe haven.  Winds up to Force 4 and waves less than 0.5m

Category C – Inshore
Boats that cruise within 10 miles of land and about 4 hours from a safe haven by day or night.  Winds up to Force 6 and waves less than 2m.

Category B – Offshore
Boats that make passages between 50 – 500 nm by day and by night.  Winds up to Force 8 and waves less than 4m

Category A – Ocean
Boats that make passages of any length.  Winds greater than Force 8 and waves greater than 4m

The type of passages you are planning will dictate the level of safety equipment required on board.  Below is a list of the universal safety equipment that each boat should carry or if a Category D boat.

Universal Safety Equipment
Life Jackets for each crew member
VHF Radio
Radar Reflector
Soft wooden plugs for through hull fittings
Motoring cone
Anchor ball
Flares 2 red hand held, 2 orange hand held
Fire blanket (if a cooker is installed)
2 Fire Extinguishers
Almanac or tide table
First Aid Kit
Mooring warps and fenders
Waterproof Torch
Tool Kit

Additional Equipment recommended for Category C
Storm Sails
Emergency tiller
2 buckets
Stop cocks on through hull fittings
Navigation lights
Fog horn
Powerful Torch
Additional flares, 2 red hand held, 2 red parachute, 4 white collision avoidance
Safety harness for each crew member
Jackstays and harness points
Life raft
Grab bag
Horseshoe buoy
Heaving line
Boarding ladder
Hand bearing compass
Plotter and dividers
Lead line
Speed log
Towing line
Additional waterproof torch
Bosuns chair

Additional Equipment recommended for Category B
Electric bilge pump
Flares, 2 buoyant orange smoke, additional 2 red parachute
Additional horseshoe buoy
Dan Buoy
Emergency VHF Antenna
Emergency water
Sail repairs

Additional Equipment recommended for Category A
Spare Anchor
Flares, additional 2 red handheld, additional 8 red parachute
Sat Phone

It is very important that your boat is suitable for the type of passage you plan to undertake.  You should ensure that you have appropriate safety equipment on board to provide the best opportunity for you to deal with any problem which may arise during the passage.

The RCD and safety equipment is covered in more details in RYA Day Skipper and RYA Yachtmaster theory courses.  Equinox Sailing run RYA Theory courses throughout the year in Central London and online, for more information please contact us on 020 7002 7676, or email [email protected]

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