Hornet News

Be safe at sea

Make sure your equipment is up to scratch !!

Life Jackets
You should make sure you and your crew have the right personal safety equipment that it is well maintained and fitted correctly. Worn correctly a lifejacket could save your life.

A lifejacket is more suitable than a buoyancy aid when on an open boat such as a powerboat or RIB and generally where you do not expect to enter the water. They offer a higher standard of performance and are intended to provide face up in water support regardless of physical conditions.

Ideally you should buy a lifejacket that is fitted with crotch straps; these will stop the lifejacket riding up over your head. You should also consider a lifejacket that has a place to fit a personal locator beacon to aid location. Where possible test your lifejacket in a controlled environment to check that it will work for you.

Fighting fire

If a fire occurs on-board your boat it is imperative that you have sufficient firefighting equipment to hand and that you know how to use it if the fire is to be extinguished quickly and effectively.

Where firefighting equipment is not mandatory it does not mean it is not required. Any vessel that is constructed of, or carries any, flammable materials should carry appropriate equipment for extinguishing fires and it is up to the owner to decide what fire extinguishers are needed and where to locate them.

On an open boat with outboard an engine(s) one or two 5A/34B rated extinguishers may be enough. These should be protected from salt water e.g. sealed in a clear plastic bag (heat sealable bags are ideal for this and can be easily torn open if needed) or carried in a dry bag with your basic safety equipment. Remember to store the extinguisher away from the engine and fuel tank. Inboard engines should be protected either by a portable extinguisher through a fire port or by a fixed system.

All fire extinguishers should be serviced, as recommended by the manufacturer or replaced when time expired.

Be seen and be heard


Although a maritime radio isn’t mandatory for pleasure vessels up to 13.7m in length, it is recommended, and a significant majority of powerboat and RIB skippers will hold a Marine Radio Short Range Certificate (SRC) to be able to legally operate VHF and VHF DSC radio equipment.

A VHF DSC radio provides line of sight two-way communications capability, automated distress alerting to everyone within range and an indication of your position if connected to a GPS receiver without the need to transmit a Mayday voice message.


EPIRB and PLB provide the position of the emergency and vessel identity if registered, but don’t facilitate two-way communication. An EPIRB/PLB does not rely on someone within VHF range to hear your Mayday call, nor does it rely on somebody spotting your flares and taking appropriate action; it simply relies on the beacon being activated and functioning correctly. Once activated an EPIRB will transmit for about 48hours, indicating that you need help and telling the Search and Rescue authorities where you are.


Traditional pyrotechnic distress flares are listed in Annex IV of COLREG as an internationally recognised signal which can be used to indicate that you are in distress and need assistance. Annex IV of COLREG lists a rocket parachute flare, a hand flare showing a red light and a smoke signal giving off orange-coloured smoke as possible distress signals. In practice, a vessel in distress may use distress flares, both to indicate that they are in difficulty and to pinpoint their location to those rendering assistance.

Pyrotechnic flares are ultimately explosives. If flares are carried on-board anyone who might have cause to use them should be familiar with how to use them safely. The time to learn this is not during an emergency, it is important to be prepared.

Calling for help

The RYA SafeTrx app provides all recreational boat users with an easily accessible and simple to use means that can inform HM Coastguard of their voyage plans and location in the event of distress. It is free to download for anyone who wants to be safer afloat and there are no charges to use it. The explorer function in the app provides weather information, port and marina contact details and VHF details based on your location when on the water.

Don’t forget…

Other things you should check before going afloat – alternative means of propulsion, anchor, chain and warp, First Aid kit, sharp knife, emergency engine spares, fuel including reserve tank, bucket, bailer or bilge pump, compass, electronic aids and charts.