Safety Equipment-A Few Tips For The New Owner

Image of Attractive church Shoreham by Sea Sussex
Attractive church Shoreham by Sea Sussex

William Mills looks at what can be reasonably expected on joining a yacht under new ownership.


image of Peter Cowley abroad his new boat last year
Peter Cowley abroad his new boat last year

Over the last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to go sailing with a novice owner and help him build his knowledge of sailing.

Peter had proudly bought himself a 18 ft bilge keel yacht moored in Shoreham harbour. Like most other new owners he was initially bewildered with the amount of information that had to be taken in, and so he asked my advice.

After all, the new owner has to find the money to buy the yacht in the first place, and no sooner than the shock of this initial assault on his bank account is wearing off, he has to pay up all over again. This time for the mooring fees, which can cost more than the yacht.

Next comes whether to buy a new outboard engine, and perhaps the sails need replacing too? 

We went out for a sail around the harbour to find out what worked and what else was needed.


Image of Helena is a fine sailor and her new sails give her a fair turn of speed.
Helena is a fine sailor and her new sails give her a fair turn of speed.


So what about safety equipment? Under the SOLAS Laws if a vessel is below a certain length there is no legal requirement to carry any safety equipment at all. However most sailors agree it is prudent to at least carry life jackets.

I remember Peter smiling as he displayed his new life jacket. 

“Excellent,” I said, “now you just need to buy one for everybody on board.”

I actually have my own and wear it all the time I’m out on the water.


image of William Mills sailing in the English Channel
William Mills sailing in the English Channel


The next thing to my mind is the ability to contact help ashore if it becomes necessary, so I suggested he bought a handheld VHF radio, and if we were to venture further out to sea we would need a GPS if visibility deteriorated. And then there were the flares, a torch, bucket with lanyard, and First Aid kit.

The list just keeps growing! However once it’s been bought it is all there, and hopefully on board and not in the boot of the car in the car park.

But is it all really necessary? It does seem like a lot. I did suggest to Peter to buy as much hand held as possible so he would be able to take it with him, if and when he traded up to a bigger boat.

I used to own a UFO 31 and when first bought, I got a doctor’s private prescription for a vast list of medicines for our First Aid kit. In the event we never needed any of it and I subsequently threw the whole lot away unopened.

Since then radio technology has advanced to the point where I now believe that the most important safety item is the handheld VHF radio for coastal and short passage sailing. 

A small family cruising yacht cannot be expected to match an ocean going liner when it comes to First Aid.

Whereas the latter might well have a team of doctors and fully equipped pharmacy on board, the former really only needs a pack of plasters so long as their radio works.

I recommend as adequate the smallest of the Crewsaver First Aid kits which retail around £20.



A final word about buying a yacht, is that it’s usual for the previous owner to take things with him. Most yachts are sold when out of the water standing on the hard so it can be swiftly surveyed for prospective buyers.

The selling agents should provide a list of inventory which is included in the sale enabling the new owner to check what’s on board. Best before dates on flares, and life raft and jackets service dates should be written down as an aide memoire.

The new owner can’t be expected to have everything on board the day he buys it and usually builds up a collection over time. It is one of the thrills of yacht ownership. There is always something new to buy!





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