Some of the stuff you take on your sailing boat are a nice-to-have, and some are a need-to-have. For your own protection and that of anyone else that joins you on the deep blue sea, we’ve put together a list of all the safety gear you can’t go without on a sailing boat.
The good news is that the number of boating accidents across Australia is generally on a year-by-year decrease, indicating sailors are being more diligent when it comes to safety. However, fatal and near-fatal accidents continue to happen - and many could have been prevented by simply wearing a life jacket or having the right signalling devices on-board.
Depending on the state you’re in, safety laws and regulations vary. This list takes a generalised overview of the safety gear that’s recommended across the country for recreational sailing.
A recent push by ANZSBEG group (Australia New Zealand Safe Boating Education Group) focused on providing new life jackets with the purpose of increasing wear rates. It involved allowing boaters to swap their old jackets for new ones and had considerable success, with wear rates reaching around 50%.
Of all those that drowned in Australia between 2005-2015, it’s estimated that 92% were not wearing a life jacket.
Ensure you always have enough jackets available for each person on-board and that they’re of the correct buoyancy level. The lowest level is 50 and is suitable for competent swimmers in calm waters, with a maximum level of 150, necessary for offshore and rough conditions.
The majority of sailing season is spent in anchorages, so it makes sense to have a suitable, good-quality anchor. You want to be sure your boat is in the same place you parked it, so choose an anchor that’s appropriate for your vessel’s size and for the conditions you’re anchored in.
By law, you need to have a registered EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) on your boat, when travelling over 2 nautical miles away from the mainland. This is vital for rescue teams to locate your vessel in an emergency as it provides your GPS coordinates and emits a distress signal for a minimum of 48 hours.
If you haven’t yet registered your EPIRB, you can do this free-of-charge with the Australia Maritime Safety Authority.
Flares, bells, whistles, lightsticks and mirrors are all useful signalling devices - and you should have a sufficient amount on your sailing boat, in case something does go wrong. They’re inexpensive and don’t take up much space, but can seriously reduce the time it takes for rescue teams to spot and get to you, making them a perfect addition to your safety gear collection
While some devices are optional, flares are a requirement. All boats should contain at least 2 red and 2 orange flares within their use-by date.
A requirement when travelling over 2 nautical miles from mainland, marine radios (usually VHF radios) are the communication tool used to speak to other vessels and coast stations. Use VHF channel 16 to communicate distress and safety messages, and keep it on to listen for distress calls from other vessels.See our range of VHF radios here