Skipper (professional or owner) of a sailing boat means responsibility, acknowledgement of the necessary work and his duty regarding the crew, as well as the ability to operate the boat. It also means knowledge of preventing accidents and much more, all of the elements that we could say are included in the word “Seamanship”. It is exactly this word that should guide the mind and therefore the decisions of a fair and experienced Skipper.
The following are just some of the key points that will make the trip SAFE and the Skipper more relaxed, since he will not have to be preoccupied with the daily safety issues, but rather with the sound outcome of the voyage and the fun of his crew.
- Life Jackets: The boat must have the correct number of lifejackets for both passengers and the Skipper, which must be in accessible places that should be made known to the crew when boarding.
- Flares: As required by the regulations, these must be on board and not expired.
- Fire extinguishers: These must be functional with regards to expiration dates and placed in prominent, open areas.
- Life Raft: (where required) which has succeeded in the manufacturer’s scheduled inspections.
- VHF: Proper operation of the boat’s main communication tool is absolutely essential as mobile phones may not operate when help may be need. The VHF must operate continuously, although it may be annoying, and the Skipper must also know the correct language of communication. In the last few years that VHFs have become digital and additional features, such as Distress alert or MMSI have been added to them, it is necessary for the Skipper to have attended at least one relevant seminar provided by Nautical Clubs.
- Fuel: The boat must have enough fuel to be able to manoeuvre in the ports, but also to travel by using the motor engine in case of an emergency. Indeed, cutting down in fuel supply will not save your travel budget, while on the contrary it can very easily ruin an amazing trip.
- Boat motor engine: It must be professionally maintained annually, so that it works properly whenever needed in ports or during an emergency.
- Safety straps: Mainly required for night sailing and especially under adverse weather conditions. They should be easily accessible when needed.
- Maps (paper): Electronic instruments and GPS are useful but it all depends on the boat’s electrical power. However, when the power stops working for technical reasons or when the GPS-powered satellites have a problem (it has already happened in war or troubled areas) then it will not provide data to the Skipper and only paper maps will be able to show the route for a safe mooring of the boat. Of course, we must not forget the accessories such as pencils, erasers, compass and parallel rulers.
- Port indicators (Paper): They are necessary on board, especially for ports that the boat is scheduled to visit during the trip. They provide detailed information on creeks and harbours and this is very helpful when anchoring or needing to moor at a port we are not familiar with.
- First-aid kit: It is essential to always have at easy reach on the boat a first-aid kit or pharmacy equipped with non-expired medicines that may be useful if a crew member is injured (you can find detailed information on the Internet about what a first aid kit should contain). It is of course useful for the Skipper to have completed First Aid seminars or KARPA, which will make the crew feel safer, thus offering him more enjoyment and confidence during the trip.
- Weather: It is imperative before departing for a short or long trip, that the Skipper is aware of the weather conditions. Thus, we stay informed by the local weather stations about the upcoming weather conditions and we never underestimate the predictions because weather changes can occur much faster or with more intensity and make the situation for the boat and the crew very dangerous.
- Communication & Terminology: Spend 5 minutes when boarding to become familiar with the crew, explain to them basic safety rules that apply to your boat and show them where all the required safety equipment is located, i.e. lifejackets, fire extinguishers, flares, first-aid kit etc. Additionally, during the trip, familiarize your crew with some nautical terminology, so that when these terms are used, they shall be able to understand, correctly respond and don’t stare at you as if you are speaking a foreign language!
- Flashlights: Although most sailing trips take place in daylight, there must be functional flashlights inside the boat and in open areas for use during the night.
- Pocket-knives: There should always be a good pocket-knife on deck or in the steering wheel compartment, so that when some ropes that can cause an accident need to be cut, this could be done immediately.