Essential PPE: Ensure the Safety of You and Your Crew on Every Sailboat Trip
The foundation of any successful sailing trip is having the right safety equipment onboard. While many pieces and components are designed with crew safety in mind, there are certain pieces that have been required by federal law in order to prevent drowning, fire, or collisions. Complying with these five items might appear time-consuming and costly, but they are necessities when taking a sailboat out.
For each person aboard, the appropriate personal flotation device (PFD), or life vest, is required. Five types are issued, with a Type I or offshore life jacket as the minimum requirement. You should also have a Type IV or throwable device, like a ring buoy or cushion, attached to a line of polypropylene so that it can be thrown out to rescuers in emergencies.
Your safety zones aren’t complete without fire extinguishers. The number you need depends on the size of your sailboat and any combustible materials you might have aboard. Always be prepared for an incident with the right number and type of fire extinguishers.
Signaling for help can be done with the common use of flares. As the most dependable visual aid for distress signals, they are able to be easily seen at night or in thick fog. Doing so meets the requirements of a U.S. federal law and helps other boaters identify your position in a hazardous scenario.
In addition to flares, running lights are a must for night sailing. Having them turned on and in working order increases the visibility of your boat and helps other vessels avoid collisions. Lastly, having a noisemaker onboard is also mandatory by law. This device must be audible from a mile away and can be in the form of a large bell, whistle, compressed air horn, or other.
Of course, there is other safety equipment that is recommended but not required by federal law. Outfitting your sailboat with a safety tool kit, first aid kit, manual bilge pump, anchors, flashlights, VHF radios, navigational charts or GPS systems, inflatable life rafts and safety harnesses are all important too, although their use is solely dependent on what type of sailing trips you plan on going on.
Having the proper safety equipment aboard for your sailboat is the foundation for a successful trip. Ensure you check the five required pieces at least once a season to make sure they are working properly. Installing and maintaining additional safety equipment, while not required, is always a good idea as well. Doing so will make sure you sail confidently on the calm and volatile waters ahead.