One of the joys of boating is the wealth of fun, healthy and exciting outdoor activities for all the family. Whether you are bouncing around on a towable, catching some Cornish mackerel for your beach BBQ or simply heading out for a pub lunch and a tour of some beauty spots there is something for everyone.
If you think ahead then any worries about boating with a range of people, with a wide range of interests, physical requirements and energy levels need not be a concern. However, for many people, merely the thought of jumping on a RIB or a day boat with an excitable toddler, perhaps the family dog and a keen grandparent or two is enough for them to plan a trip to the cinema instead…
Do not fear! There are many organisations, such as the RYA who have a wealth of sensible advice to help your day go smoothly. As you progress with your boating it is also a great help to have some time out with friends and see how they manage. For example, over the years we have known families who take their little ones out regularly, they have developed their own ways of coping and their children are growing up with a healthy respect for and awareness of the water. Simple solutions such as arranging to meet someone on the pontoon to offer a helping hand or an extra pair of eyes when disembarking can be hugely reassuring and can make the whole day even more sociable.
Making sure that everyone is involved and learning about boating is a great way to share responsibilities and ensure that one person does not end up doing all the hard work. Some of the best memories also happen when things don’t go quite as expected. On our last trip we had to figure out how to get to the pub for lunch when the tide was low and we were stuck tantalisingly close to the pontoon. This turned out to be rather good fun, particularly as we were assisted in our task by a plentiful supply of ‘emergency’ chocolate. Everyone got home safe and sound and we were even feeling brave enough to let the younger generation use their recent RYA Powerboat training to drive us all back.
Have A Plan
Be prepared think ‘what if?’ and don’t ruin a good day out on the water with insufficient planning. An element of planning is required for even the simplest and shortest of journeys. Passage planning is an obligation for all seafarers under the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS V). However, a passage plan needn’t be complicated. The type of boat you have and the trip you are intending to take will determine how much planning you need to do.
The plan will consider where you want to go and how you will go about getting there safely.
Route a straight line from A to B will seldom be possible. Your prior planning will establish your intended route, any hazards or navigational risks that need to be avoided and constraints that may limit your options.
Tides & currents check the anticipated currents and tidal predictions for your trip and ensure that they fit with what you are planning to do.
Navigation dangers check up-to-date charts and current pilot books, notices to mariners, almanacs or river guides for any navigational dangers such as shoals, overfalls, weirs, overhead wires and buoyage. Be aware that counterfeit charts and publications are in circulation and pose a danger to the safety of a vessel and its crews.
Constraints you also need to plan for the unexpected, which might include deteriorating weather conditions, an illness, injury or gear failure occurring on board, the trip taking longer than expected, missing a tidal gate or simply deciding not to complete the trip.
Refuge you should look at the charts and pilot book before you leave and consider alternative destinations and places where you could take shelter if necessary.
Daylight could delays lead to unexpected night time boating?
Weather before you go check the weather forecast and get regular updates if you are planning to be out for any length of time. Read more about weather forecasts. Seagoing boats equipped with a VHF radio can monitor Coastguard maritime safety information broadcasts for updates whilst at sea.
Limitations of the boat consider whether your boat is up to the proposed trip and that you have the appropriate safety equipment and stores with you.
Engine checking your engine before you set off could avoid breaking down when you are underway. The RYA website has more advice on engine checks.
Crew take into account the experience and physical ability of your crew. Are they up to the trip you are planning? Are they kitted out with the right personal safety equipment and have they been briefed on the voyage plan? A skipper should ensure that everyone on board knows where the safety equipment is stowed and how to use it. Talk them through your plan as well as your contingency plans should something go wrong, including who should take over if you are injured or taken ill. Also check that they know how to start the engine, how to send a Mayday and to make them aware of any on board hazards.
Share your plan let someone onshore know your plan and make sure they understand what to do should they become concerned about your well-being. The free RYA SafeTrx app monitors your boat journeys and alerts emergency contacts should you fail to return on time.
Having thought about all of this, all you need to do next is find your perfect beach cafe or pack your favourite BBQ (don’t forget the chocolate)!
We are grateful to The Royal Yachting Association for the original article, updated and amended by Philippa Glassbrook.