5 Simple Tips for Improving Boat Safety

Sailing and boating are wonderful pastimes, but it can also be a very dangerous environment and needs to be given respect. Whether you are messing around in a dinghy or racing across oceans – safety always has to be paramount. Champion sailor Alex Alley gives us 5 simple tips on how to improve boat safety.

“When I was learning to sail, I remember my father once said to me about the sea – ‘it makes a good servant, but a bad master’. It took me a while to understand what he meant, but I soon realized what he was talking about.

Safety has to be top of the list when boating. I once had to fill out a risk assessment form for a corporate sailing trip. It seemed that serious risks were everywhere, from falling overboard to being hit by the boom.”


By following a few simple rules, these risks can be easily reduced:

  • One of the top ‘rules’ for me is simply common sense – don’t mess around. If you run around the boat you are more likely to slip and fall – potentially over the side! The last thing any crew wants is a man overboard situation. It is one thing picking up a fender and a bucket during a drill – it is completely different picking up an unconscious person out of the water.
  • Alcohol and boating don’t mix very well. It impairs your decision making and can upset your balance and judgment. Although in the UK there is no specific law against drinking and sailing – it is a foolish skipper who does. Save the drinking for the bar once back ashore.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. That includes the weather and what to expect. If you are crewing onboard a boat, don’t always assume the skipper has seen everything around you. Make them aware of nearby boats and obstructions – they probably have seen them, but don’t presume that they have. There is nothing worse than running in to a buoy hidden behind the jib.
  • Sail within your limits. Often people get in to difficulty when sailing beyond their means. Too much sail up in strong winds makes the boat hard to control and likely to broach, which can in turn send crew and equipment over the side. It isn’t a fast way to sail the boat – generally boats are much quicker if they are more upright. It’s also safer and more comfortable.
  • Maintenance. It may not seem an obvious safety point at first, but worn or damaged kit can cause a lot of problems. Worn out equipment usually breaks when it is least convenient. A faulty spinnaker pole topping lift for example can cause the pole to drop on unsuspecting crew. Poorly maintained lifejackets and lifelines speak for themselves. Regular maintenance is the answer – prevention is better than cure.

Sailing is a great sport and past time and is there to be enjoyed by everyone. By using common sense and following a few simple rules it can also be enjoyed safely.

Learn more about Alex Alley, champion sailor and MaxSea partner.

If you have any tips of your own for what to look out for when purchasing a boat, simply leave a comment.

10 point safety checklist

A Doctor’s Advice on Boat Safety: Sun Radiation and its Risks

The ‘sailing doctor’ Jean-Yves Chauve shares his Boat safety: Jean yves chauvreadvice for how to protect yourself from a boating sunburn. When planning for boat safety, it is important to keep this in mind because the strength of sunlight is greatly increased by the reflection of the water.


All you need to do is look at the faces of fishermen to realise how aggressive ultraviolet rays are. The most dangerous type of ray are UVC, which are usually filtered by the ozone layer.

Boat safety: avoid sunburn onboard
The sun-damaged skin of a fisherman’s face

UVA rays promote immediate tanning, while UVB rays cause the skin to thicken and the production of melanin. A sailing sunburn is a real burn and this type of injury increases the risk of skin cancer such as carcinomas and melanomas.

Boat safety: sunburn

It is therefore imperative for people who boat to protect themselves from sunburn.

Here are a few simple preventative measures to take:

  • Wear colored and loose clothing, especially lycra
  • Apply high-factor sun block – choose according to your skin type

People with fair skin are most at risk. As well as sunburn, exposure to infrared rays may cause the body temperature to rise and subsequently can result in heatstroke. Heatstroke is very serious and the consequences can be severe.

To avoid this:

  • Stay in the shade as much as possible
  • Wear a hat to cover your head
  • Moisturise your skin regularly to help eliminate heat
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
Boat safety: Shade boat
Staying in the shade on a boat

Make sure you are prepared for whatever the weather holds – check the temperature forecast by downloading and overlaying free GRIB file data in your MaxSea TimeZero!

Read more of Dr. Chauve’s advice for boating safety in his three previous blog posts:


MaxSea TimeZero Free Weather Forecast Service