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Safety Briefings

The safety briefing is an important part of any trip on a boat. If you are new to sailing you will the confidence of a skipper who is able to explain clearly and concisely the principal dangers on board. Some dangers are obvious, but the cause of accidents not.

It is also important that the skipper brief the crew in a way that means that the new crew will retain the information. The first time on a boat can be daunting, and having a complicated briefing will mean that it is not taken in. It also eats into sailing time!

So what then should be included in a safety briefing? This is just a suggestion, and represents what we tend to do on our boat, and will have to be adapted for each boat and crew. But here is a suggested list:

  1. Wear a lifejacket - always. If the skipper doesn't offer one for you, you should ask. If you don't want to ask, which can be understandable, then get one yourself for the next time.
  2. One hand for yourself, and one for the boat. The deck may not be where you thought it was going to be as you move about the boat, so keep your centre of gravity low as you move about, and hold on.
  3. In case of an emergency, whether illness or Man Overboard, here is how to drop the sails. On a cruising sailboat, this should be a case of rolling up the genoa, and dropping the mainsail.
  4. Show the location of the radio, and provide basic instructions on how to use it. Most boats will have written instructions next to the radio. Also include a basic explanation of how to call the coastguard.
  5. Starting the engine - how to start it, how to engage forward gear, reverse, and neutral. And how to switch it off.
  6. Basic MOB drill. One person points to the casualty, throw the MOB floats to him or her, drop the sails, turn round, call the coastguard.
  7. Location of the liferaft, and always step up to the liferaft!
  8. Location of the fire extinguishers.
Those are probably the main aspects of a safety briefing.

A boat is of course a dangerous place. So there will be mini-briefings as you go. Use of a winch, and how to avoid losing fingers. 'Thumbs up, clockwise' is a simple phrase to remember. If you are cruising, you will also want to brief on the use of gas, and the basic safety checks that should be carried out.

Use of the toilets is also not simple, and incorrect usage can lead to blockages, which will make the skipper mad, and dangerous!

Then it's time to go sailing.

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