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The first trip

We were almost ready for our first trip after buying the boat. What should we look out for? This simple code of practice that we discovered was a good start:

THE AIM OF THIS simple code for cruising yachtsmen and women is to encourage common-sense safety measures and other practices so that all who share the sea may do so in safety without being a nuisance or a danger to others. Furthermore, it is hoped that observance of this Code may help to reduce the number of calls made by yachtsmen to the rescue services of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The Code is not concerned with etiquette; it is concerned with the practice of good seamanship which brings with it safe cruising.


Consider the following for you and your crew:

Al. Do you and your crew have adequate training and experience for the proposed cruise even if the weather becomes worse than anticipated ?

A2. Do you have a Certificate of Competence for this level of experience?

A3. Do you have a Ship Radio License and somebody on board with a Radio Operators License?

A4. Does anyone on board have experience or qualifications in First Aid and resuscitation ?

A5. If you become incapacitated at any time during the cruise can your crew deal with any situation which may occur?

Consider the following for your boat:

A6. How long is it since your boat, its engine and steering was professionally surveyed?

A7. How long is it since your liferaft, life-jackets & safety-harnesses were properly serviced ?

A8. Is your boat fully insured for the area to be cruised, is the third-party insurance adequate and are you, your crew and passengers fully covered for all injuries?

A9. Is the vessel's name or number prominently displayed for identification purposes and is its registration still valid?

A10. Is the vessel registered with the Coastguard under the CC66 Scheme and are the details still up-to-date? Is the 'agent' (nominated by you on the form as a contact for emergency purposes) likely to be available and able to play his part?


El. Consider especially the presence, condition and serviceability of the following items immediately before starting. They have all been found to be regular causes of difficulty and distress:

Sea-cocks, cockpit drains, bilge-pumps and adjoining plumbing;
Fuel and lubricants sufficient for the intended voyage plus a reserve;
Diesel, oil and water-cooling filters, tools and access;
Gas and liquid fuel pipes, cocks and joints;
Rigging, lifelines, jackstays, reefing gear and other heavy-weather equipment;
Batteries fully charged with electrolyte, checked and properly secured.

B2. Consider especially how you will cope with a Man-Overboard situation, and how your crew will cope if it is you who goes overboard:

Lifejackets with marker lights and harnesses for each person on board;

Lifebelts with markers and lights, accessible each side of vessel to helmsman;

Simple Dan-buoy with marker flag and light;

Inflateable liferaft or inflatable dinghy (actually inflated or with automatic inflation);

Specialised recovery or lifting equipment.

B3. Can a second person on board navigate the vessel properly and operate communication radio? Do all your crew have an adequate understanding of fire and emergency procedures?

B4. Are your medical first-aid supplies up-to-date and sufficiently comprehensive?

B5. Are your engine and fuel system spares and tools sufficiently complete?

B6. Do you have efficient and adequate means of signalling distress by day and night and by several different means - GMDSS radio, FPIRB, flares?

B7. Can you adequately indicate the presence of your vessel under all conditions:

white flares; powerful torch; foghorn, bell, whistle; navigation lights; radar reflector properly mounted and of adequate size?

B8. Do you have an adequate number of fire extinguishers to the correct modern specification, and a fire-blanket, immediately accessible wherever fire could break out, e.g. galley and engine areas? Can you get direct access to fire fighting equipment from all sleeping berths and hatches?

B9. Do you have at least two anchors of full size for the boat with plenty of chain and warp?

B10. Do you have material and equipment for repairing sails, tapered plugs for bro ken seacocks, spare batteries for GPS and torches, etc.?

B11. Have you checked your compass deviation for all directions? Do you have a second compass?

B12. Are your charts sufficiently comprehensive, corrected up to date, and do they cover adjacent areas where you may have to seek refuge? Do you have current pilot books and tidal data?

B13. Have you informed somebody ashore of your plans? Is this the person named on your CG66?


Know and observe the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (the ColRegs). Have a copy of the Regulations readily available. Your attention is drawn particularly to the following:

Keep a good lookout all round at all times and instruct your crew to do similarly;

Have a hand-bearing compass readily available to check for changing bearings of vessels on closing courses;

When altering course to clear alteration is large and visible to other vessels;

When altering course to clear another vessel, make the alteration in good time;

Use navigation lights, anchor-ball, anchor-light and motor-sailing cone according to the rules.

Have white flares handy, and do not hesitate to use them if a dangerous situation appears to be developing.

C2. Ensure you and all your crew members are aware of Distress and Urgency Procedures, including GMDSS procedures.

C3. Maintain a listening watch on VHF Channel 16 and VHF VTS channels in areas where this is required. Observe correct VHF procedures and channel allocations. Do not use the VHF unnecessarily for conversation between vessels.

C4. Keep a regular and proper plot of the ship's position both on your chart and in your log-book. Do not rely on electronic Systems.

C5. Note weather-forecasts and plot barometer readings regularly. Amend your passage-plan if necessary.

C6. Consider at all times the strength of your crew:

Organise watches and ensure that everyone has proper rest;

See that safety harnesses are worn in heavy weather, at night, and especially on lone watch;

Take proper rest yourself but ensure that the crew on watch understand when you must be called;

Treat sea-sickness seriously. Discover the most effective remedy for yourself and crew and use in good time.

C7. Ensure that at all times everything is properly stowed for sea. This is particularly important for heavy items such as anchors, fuel containers, batteries and gas bottles.

C8. Keep a good lookout for fishing gear - small flags or floats (possibly being dragged just below the surface in strong tides) within about five miles of the coast, particularly around rocky headlands.

C9. Check harbour-entry requirements and signals in good time and observe them meticulously.


Dl. Observe local harbour regulations, bye-laws and signals.

D2. If you are berthing alongside another vessel, run out your own lines ashore or to piles/ buoy, and use springs and adequate fenders. Advise expected time of departure. Cross the foredeck of any neighbouring vessel when going ashore.

D3. If you pick up someone else's mooring, do not overload it, or leave your vessel unattended without permission.

D4. Anchor clear of other vessels, moorings, oyster and mussel beds, allowing for other vessels swinging as well as yourself and judging how both yourself and others are likely to lie when the tide changes. Check against dragging before going ashore. Moor with two anchors if necessary.

D5. If you leave your vessel for a period away from your home port, tell some responsible local person how to get in touch with you.

D6. When using the dinghy, always carry oars and properly secured rowlocks; guard against overloading, especially at night. Wear lifejackets in adverse conditions and at night. Carry a torch at night. Remember that dinghies are required to show a light at night, and that if two boats are running outboards, neither may be able to hear the other.


Everyone putting to sea has a legal and moral responsibility to protect the natural environment both for the welfare of animals, birds and plants and for the greater comfort of themselves and other seafarers. Take a responsible attitude and in particular:

El. Do not cause pollution: Observe the prohibition on dumping refuse at sea - 'Over the Side is Over'. Retain all waste on board especially bottles, cans and other indestructible materials.

E2. Dispose of rubbish ashore responsibly. All yacht berthing now has adequate disposal arrangements.

E3. Do not discharge oily bilge into the sea.

E4. Keep down noise, especially at night, from radio, charging plant and unfrapped halyards.

E5. Proceed cautiously at slow speed in harbour and near shorelines, observing your wash and its effects.


It is important not to prejudice the good relationship which exists between yachtsmen and HM Customs. Notice 8 of HM Customs and Excise gives all details concerning pleasure craft using UK ports. This Notice is available from any Customs office and most yacht clubs. Carrying and observing Notice 8 is obligatory.

The Cruising Association has a joint agreement with HM Customs to assist in combatting the drugs trade. Note in particular:

Fl. You are required to advise local Customs when entering or leaving any UK port from or to overseas if you have anyone on board with a non-UK passport.

F2. Different rules apply to passages which cross frontiers between UK ports, EU countries, EEA countries, countries party to the Schengen agreement and any two countries outside Europe. It is your responsibility to be aware of these rules before departure.

F3. Different rules may apply to foreign registered vessels who should also consult their own Customs Authorities.

F4. Carry international code flag 'Q' and use it where required. Where a Customs inspection is required do not permit any crew-member to go ashore until the inspection is complete.

F5. Report suspicious activity to HM Customs immediately on arrival at a port or via secure communications.


The Cruising Association publishes this Code of Good Practice for Cruising Yachtsmen and the associated Code of Conduct (published each year in theYearbook) in order to encourage Members who cruise to do so in a manner which will best allow them to enjoy their chosen sport and in a manner which does not cause inconvenience to others or detriment to the natural environment.

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