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Cornwall Marine Directory

Safety on the water

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Water is vital for life and it also offers fantastic opportunities for recreation and enjoyment but unless it is treated with the utmost respect it can form one of the most dangerous environments to human life. The following is basic advice for staying safe on the water.

For more information, and for free booklets or PDF downloads, go to the RNLI's website Lives are lost every year simply because a few basic safety measures are overlooked.

Here are just some of the basics you should think about before going out on the water. These are by no means exhaustive; the emphasis must always be on the individual to ensure they are adequately prepared for the situation they are about to engage in.

1) Master basic skills
Can you control your watercraft safely and is your craft handling upto scratch? Ensure you know your navigation, meteorology and rules of the road – even if you are in a small craft these are important. The RYA administers comprehensive training programmes for all abilities in all manner of on-the-water activities. Call 0845 345 0400 for info.

2) Equipment must be maintained
Ensure you can use your craft as it was designed to be used and that all of its systems are well maintained and work as they should. Ensure that your engine, if you have one, is maintained and ready to run.

3) Be prepared
Ensure you and any companions are prepared with the right clothing for the worst conditions you may encounter including waterproofs and lifejackets if appropriate. Make sure you have enough food and water with you for longer than you expect to be out on the water.

4) Emergency equipment
Make sure your emergency equipment works and that you and whoever is with you knows how to use it. Always ensure you've got several ways of alerting other people. A VHF is often the best, but a simple whistle could also make the difference between life and death.

5) Let someone where you are going
Tell someone where you are going and when you are expecting to be back. It is important that they know who to call if you don't return and what to tell them. If you are late and you haven't had a disaster make sure you let them know not to raise the alarm.

6) Plan B
Think about how you would react if some of the most likely things did go wrong like engine, or sailing rig, failure, inclement weather or a medical problem that happens on the water. Make sure you would be able to act out your Plan B should it or something like it really happen.

7) At the beach
Beaches can be fun for the whole family but you must pay attention to the hazards around you if you are to remain safe. Take a note from the RNLI beach lifeguards who say: "Don't forget the FLAGS when at the beach".

Find the red and yellow flags and swim between them
Look at the safety signs
Ask a lifeguard for advice
Get a friend to swim with you
Stick your hand in the air and shout for help if in difficulty

They also advise you follow these guidelines –
a) Spot the danger
Take care when bathing and swimming and be aware of what is around you on the beach. Especially you should take note of rocks, piers and other manmade obstructions. Be aware of dangerous rip currents.

b) Don’t go alone
Swim with a friend. Never go on your own and make sure there are other people around because you never know when help might be needed.

c) Take safety advice
Swim where there is a lifeguard on patrol and within a zoned area of red and yellow flags. Look out for information including warning signs and flags. Never swim where a sign says not to, or when a red flag is flying. Listen, and take, the advice of the lifeguards.

d) Learn how to help
If you see someone in difficulty, raise the alarm by telling a lifeguard if there is one nearby, or tell anyone else and go to the nearest telephone, dial 999 or 112, and ask for the coastguard. Your input could be vital in saving a life.

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