Sailing The Seven Seas: Safety Equipment Every Boat Must Have

Going out on the water is fun but potentially dangerous. You’ve all the heard safety advice before, but did you take it seriously? You must not go out into open waters without safety equipment. It’s not worth the risk. Fortunately, safety doesn’t take the fun out of sailing. Here’s a shortlist of things you should stash on your boat just in case:

Personal Floatation Device

Yes, some consider life jackets “uncool,” but they also save lives. If you hit a squall, you’ll be glad to wear one. Your floatation device should be appropriate for your vessel type, activity, and the weather conditions. Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.

Fire Extinguisher

A dry chemical powder extinguisher is what you want. With all the water at sea, you may wonder why  you’d want an extinguisher. Most fires at sea involve oil or gasoline, which must be extinguished with a dry chemical extinguisher. Water won’t remedy oil and gas fires.


There are times when your vessel takes on water. A bailer is incredibly handy in these situations. A bailer lets you bail out water to keep afloat, reducing the risk of capsizing.

Bucket with Lanyard

A large bucket with a lanyard has multiple uses, such as serving as a backup bailer.

Bilge Pumping System

A bilge pumping system is necessary when your sailboat has a covered bilge or any type of enclosed underfloor compartment. It will pump water out of your boat, which is obviously a good thing.


These are also called “lifesavers” and good to have if you go overboard. Someone can throw you a lifebuoy; you won’t have to fight against the current while you’re in the water, making rescue easier, since the buoy can be attached to the boat using a rope.

Waterproof Torch

Waterproof torches or flashlights are excellent when stranded at sea in need of some type of marker for other boats to find you. Torches and lights are also good for poking around in the dark if the electricity on your boat goes out. If you don’t have electricity on your boat, it can be a lifesaver in its own right if you happen to stay out at sea just a bit too long.


Anchors should be an obvious choice since they allow you to dock just about anywhere.

Marine Radio

This is a VHF or HP radio. Keep one of these handy if you’re going out alone; you can get weather updates and be warned of bad weather before it hits you. Once you’re out at sea, you have limited options to avoid an oncoming storm. It’s better to have advanced warning; you can get out of the water rather than fight a storm in your sailboat.


If you have to abandon your ship, a life raft ensures you make it out of the ordeal alive. Check your raft for leaks each time before you go out. You don’t want to get out onto the water, finding out your raft has a hole in it.


A compass keeps you pointed in the right direction. If you venture out beyond the coastline, your only guide will be a compass and a map. Without a compass, you’re basically lost at sea.


Flares are one of the only tools you have to signal for help while you’re at sea. Carry plenty of them, ensuring you have multiple chances of being seen. If you do get lost, ample flares will allow you to signal at least once every half hour for several hours until you’re found.

Having all the right safety equipment and taking the time to learn how to use it can bring you peace of mind. Even so, boat insurance is always a must. Even if you don’t strike tragedy in the open seas, rubbing up against a million dollar yacht in the harbor in rough conditions can be more than embarrassing.

Joanne Lemke is a final year creative writing student at UOW, who is looking to break into the corporate copywriting space once she graduates and hopefully go on to eventually some day write a book around her other passions, namely cooking and travel.

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