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How to conduct a Safety Briefing

Motor Boats & Yachting Articles

Anybody new on a boat, whether it’s yours or one that you are being examined on, needs a safety brief, this may be as simple as a quick welcome and point out a couple of obvious items or it may be far more detailed and cover items in great depth. We are all subjected to them in our daily life – every time we fly we get the sanitised ‘please listen’ and anybody who has been on an RYA practical course will have had on as one of the first thing upon stepping abroad – after the obligatory cup of tea! one of the first things your examiner may ask is that you give a safety brief of the boat so that he know you are aware of what you have, where it is and what to do with it!

A good way to make yours is to walk through the boat listing all the equipment and then group it together, then prioritise it into a bullet pointed list that you can refer to – it’s not a memory test, indeed most commercial shipping has the information displayed on safety cards on the walls. Many candidates feel that they have got to get all this information over with military precision at 90mph, in reality the examiner has heard it all many times, they just want to be reassured that you know it and they may well split the items over a period of time and between the candidates.

How you want inform him is your choice but on a smaller boat they will expect you be conversant with all the items and able to explain them in greater depth.

It’s simpler to think of the items in three groups – Personal equipment, Comfort aboard, Boat safety equipment. They all overlap slightly and it does not matter what group you put them in as long as you cover them. Here are some of the items to consider together with some key points to cover about each item.

Personal Safety

  • Lifejackets: Are they manual or auto? Show how to put one on, when to wear it and why, do they have crotch strap and if needed a harnesses, which are kept where?
  • Tell me about you (the examiner) – do you swim and are there any medication or health issues that I should be aware off?
  • What clothing to wear and when.
  • Moving around the boat – one hand for the boat one hand for the designated task.
  • How to communicate – shouting does not work well on boats, so are there any hand signals? Never use your person to push off use a fender – boats fix easier than people.
  • General lookout, tell the skipper if you see anything – he might not have!

Comfort Aboard

  • Keep hydrated and let’s prepare some food if a long passage or build in a natural break point for a food & drink stop.
  • Heads (toilets) how to use, what not to put down them.
  • Location of seacock’s, when to close. Bilge pumps, both manual and automatic, how to use and sound of alarms (if any).
  • Gas procedure, location of bottle and how to turn off, location and sound of gas alarm.
  • Smoke alarms and Fire Extinguishers are located where? What to do if they go off and how to fight a fire, where is the fire muster point?
  • Considerations when cooking – Fire blanket location and how to use it.
  • What covers the engine room – if automatic is there any manual back up?
  • The boats policy for smoking aboard.
  • First Aid Kit, location and use off.
  • Emergency lighting, any torches or spotlights, use of lights at night.

Boat Safety Equipment

  • Liferaft: location of it – locker or on deck, does it have a hydrostatic release? How do you launch it? Downwind side of vessel if sinking but upwind side if on fire.
  • Location of any grab bag and suggestions for any extra items to bring on the way out!
  • The battery switches – how to isolate if needed.
  • Anchor how to lower and retrieve – is there a locking pin? Always consider the depth of water, Kedge anchor location.
  • Engines – how to start and stop, location of spares and tools.
  • Fuel – how much, possible range, fuel cut-offs to change a filter or if there is a fire.
  • VHF radio how and when to use it. Channel 16 & Mayday procedure and location of card, DSC if available MMSI, Call sign, lat / long vs. where are we?
  • Flares – which are kept? Are there gloves in the box or use a tea towel, they are very hot when in use, what type and when? Never use a parachute flare when a helicopter is about.
  • MOB what to do, Shout and point, use the MOB button on plotter. Life ring location, VHF Mayday call, how to get the boat back to them and possible recovery method.
  • Charts and navigation equipment, where is the nearest port and how do we get back?

The Engine Room

You may well be asked to take them through the engine checks and what your knowledge is, at all levels you need to know the daily checks and how to perform them on your engine and the systems.

  • Oil level check and how much to fill it to.
  • Cooling level check and where to fill it to.
  • Seawater cooling, can you trace through system and know where the filters are and how to clean them out.
  • Location of the impellor and how to change it – does it need a special puller?
  • Seacock’s – location and how to open and close
  • Any drive belts, tension and how to adjust
  • Trace through from tanks to engine the fuel system, know how to check and clean filters and how to bleed low and high pressure sides (if applicable)
  • Electrical, battery switches and location of any fuses or breakers.
  • Reasonable knowledge of tools and what to use.

Having gone through the boat and made your list, now practise what you would say, think of it like a play and this is the dress rehearsal and you need to be conversant with all the items and also able to answer questions the examiner may ask. Whether looking to do an RYA Powerboat Level 2 course, the RYA Yachtmaster course or just boating with friends and family, the safety brief is an essential first step.

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