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Safety At Sea

No matter how competent you are – or how many times you’ve sailed your local spot – PLEASE – don’t take safety for granted. The local community where I live has tragically lost two friends to the sea over the last few years. Competent sailors who have drowned while partaking in the sport we all love. Please do these simple things. 1) Support your local RNLI – we forget how valuable they are until we NEED them 2) Always sail with a BUDDY and tell someone when you will be back 3) Consider purchasing a PLB – a GPS equipped Personal Location Beacon. If the worst were ever to happen – activate it and SEARCH and RESCUE will know precisely where you are. SCROLL DOWN for my Best Sellers pick on Amazon

Sailing in Coastal Waters – don’t rely on a phone signal

The Strava images below show where me and my Norfolk windsurf / kiteboard friends sail. The bank we go out to on a LOW tide for some wave action is 2 miles from land. The “speed strip” we use in a Southerly gale is 1.5 miles offshore. Hunstanton isn’t quite Southend – but like Southend – once you’re out there, you’re pretty much on your own. I hit the sandbank as the tide was flooding back in at nearly 30 knots – full speed catapult – straight over the handlebars. You can see where I crashed – the CHEQUERED FLAG. Just me, two other windsurfers, my carbon boom snapped on both sides! It’s nearly 2 miles back to Hunstanton beach. It’s 4pm and our sandbank is rapidly being covered with water as the tide floods in.

At this point I could have panicked – but I knew I had my “safety kit” in my rucksack (actually an ultra-running vest). I didn’t need to – but if necessary, I could have used CHANNEL 16 on my handheld VHF to contact the Lifeboat, I could have set off a smoke flare to tell people where I was and, worst case scenario, I could have activated my PLB. Thankfully – none of that was necessary as Tom and Steve helped me pack down my kit, drag, run, walk, swim, walk, swim back to the shore.

My Offshore Safety Kit

What you see below is what I take out with me EVERY time I windsurf. It all fits neatly in an ULTRA-running vest. I also have half a litre of water in the bladder – just in case. Most my sailing friends know I have this on my – if anything happens – they can find me and we can get help!

Contents of Back Pack

  • PLB – Personal Life Beacon
  • VHF/UHF Radio (you need a licence to operate one of these – check the RYA here for details)
  • 2 x Smoke Flares (for day use)
  • 2 x Parachute Night flares
  • A rescue knife (with rounded safety tip)
  • 1.5 metres of downhaul line

A PLB – when the worst case scenario happens

A Personal Life Beacon is the very best way to protect yourself when out at sea. It doesn’t rely on any LOCAL signals or networks. A PLB uses the COSPAS-SARSAT Global Satellite System to send out a distress signal. This SOS message is sent over 406 MHz – a frequency reserved explicitly for distress calls. It’s a GLOBAL system unaffected by weather, location or war. The MARINE style PLB’s we (Norfolk windsurfers) all use also utilize the 121.5 MHz frequency. This is used like a homing beacon – rescuers can be guided within 100 meters or less of your location.

PLB’s on Amazon

The ACR ResQLink View is a compact, buoyant GPS personal locator beacon (PLB) designed for outdoor adventurers, boaters, pilots, and anyone who finds themselves in remote locations where standard communication methods may not be available. This device is equipped with a powerful GPS signal that accurately transmits your location to rescue services, ensuring timely assistance in emergency situations. Its buoyant design means it can float, making it particularly useful for maritime activities. The integrated digital display provides important information such as GPS coordinates, usage instructions, and battery life, enhancing user confidence and preparedness.

Carrying an ACR ResQLink View is essential for those who venture into areas without reliable cell coverage. In the event of an emergency, activating the beacon sends a distress signal to a network of satellites, which then relays your location to the nearest rescue authorities. This rapid response capability can be life-saving in critical situations, such as getting lost in the wilderness, encountering severe weather, or experiencing mechanical failure while boating or flying. Its robust design, ease of use, and reliable performance make it a crucial safety tool for ensuring peace of mind and increasing survival chances in emergencies.

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Marine VHF on Amazon

Cobra Handheld VHF radios, such as the MRHH150, are essential communication tools designed for maritime use, providing reliable two-way communication while boating. The MRHH150 model is particularly popular due to its compact design, waterproof construction, and user-friendly features. These radios operate on VHF marine frequencies, allowing boaters to communicate with other vessels, marinas, and emergency services. They come equipped with important features such as NOAA weather alerts, which provide real-time updates on weather conditions, and a noise-cancelling microphone for clear transmission even in windy or noisy environments.

Carrying a Cobra Handheld VHF radio like the MRHH150 is crucial for boating safety in the UK, where weather conditions can change rapidly, and coastal waters can be busy. These radios ensure that boaters can receive timely weather alerts and navigational information, helping them make informed decisions to avoid dangerous situations. In case of emergencies, a VHF radio enables quick communication with the coast guard and other rescue services, ensuring prompt assistance. The portability and durability of handheld VHF radios make them a practical and essential addition to any boater’s safety equipment, providing peace of mind and enhancing overall safety on the water.

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RYA VHF Guide on Amazon

The “RYA VHF Handbook” is a comprehensive guide produced by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) that provides essential information for operating VHF (Very High Frequency) radios on boats. This handbook serves as a key resource for anyone preparing for the RYA VHF Radio (Short Range Certificate) course and exam, as well as for experienced mariners seeking to refresh their knowledge.

The handbook covers a wide range of topics, including the fundamental principles of VHF radio operation, the legal requirements for using VHF radios, and the various types of equipment available. It explains the correct procedures for making routine and emergency calls, including the use of Digital Selective Calling (DSC), and provides detailed instructions on how to handle distress, urgency, and safety communications. Additionally, the book offers practical advice on maintaining and troubleshooting VHF equipment. With clear explanations, illustrative diagrams, and practical examples, the “RYA VHF Handbook” is an invaluable resource for ensuring effective and compliant use of VHF radios in maritime settings.

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What is a PLB – Video presentation