Over the years our checklist of Safety Recommendations has been widely respected as a clear and concise guide to safe cruising in small boats. It has been updated and presented here for discussion, after which it will appear on a single A4 page in each issue of Dinghy Cruising, and on this website. Remember that it is a list of suggestions, not rules, from which sailors can take what is appropriate to their boats and themselves. Safety is ultimately the responsibility of each individual.
1.0. The Boat
1.1. Sufficiently stable so the whole crew can sit on the gunwale without dipping it under the water.
1.2. With sufficient positive buoyancy to support stores and crew when flooded, and disposed so the crew can put the boat back into sailing condition unaided, after a capsize or swamping. Capsizing in a seaway can be serious and life-threatening: in rough seas, recovery may become impossible.
1.3. Hull, mast and rigging strong enough to withstand cruising stresses, and properly maintained.
1.4. With a mainsail capable of being reefed whilst at sea. Jib furling is desirable.
1.5. Registered with the Coastguard on form CG 66 (link below).
2.0. The crew
2.1. Sufficiently experienced for the conditions expected and the area to be sailed.
2.2. Aware of their responsibilities under SOLAS as well as local regulations, such as those issued
by the MCA in the UK (see links below).
2.3. Adequate for the dinghy: ideally one stone of crew weight for each foot of LWL (20kg/metre).
3.0. Equipment for cruising
3.1. Personal buoyancy for each member of the crew.
3.2. Waterproofs and plenty of dry warm clothing for each crew member, kept in waterproof bags.
3.3. Anchor, minimum 10lb (5kg). Anchor cable minimum 30 metres 8 mm non-floating material, with 2 metres of chain between it and the anchor, secured to a strongpoint inside the boat.
3.4. Strong bucket as well as a bailer, both with lanyards. A bilge pump is recommended.
3.5. Two oars and metal rowlocks secured by lanyards, plus one spare rowlock. Paddles are not an adequate substitute.
3.6. Drinking water and emergency food rations, sufficient for everyone on board.
3.7. Orienteering compass and chart or large scale local map.
3.8. Fire blanket or fire extinguisher.
3.9. Waterproof VHF radio, preferably with DSC.
3.10. Mobile telephone in a waterproof pouch.
3.11. Powerful waterproof light and at least one spare torch.
3.12. First-aid kit.
3.13. Fog horn or whistle to give audible warning in thick weather.
4.0. Additional equipment for more extended cruises outside sheltered waters
4.1. Reliable steering compass, kept in one position and checked for deviation, preferably lit for night use.
4.2. Navigation equipment: charts covering the whole passage, pilot book, almanac, tidal atlas, leadline, handbearing compass, waterproof GPS or chartplotter.
4.3. Log book for passage planning notes and for recording the passage in progress.
4.4. Emergency radio beacon: EPIRB or PLB.
4.5. Repair kit and spare parts.
4.6. Effective radar reflector, if practicable.
4.7. Day and night flares in a waterproof pack.
4.8. For foreign waters the boat should be registered, display her number and carry registration documents.
CG66: Register your boat with the Coastguard on Form CG66.
SOLAS: The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea is a large, complex, legal document covering many issues outside the scope of dinghy cruising activity. The full text can be found here. The sections relevant to 'pleasure craft' are summarised by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency - see below.