How To Get Ready For The Easing Of Lockdown Restrictions – Water Users Guide

You will have no doubt be aware of the the governments recent announcement of their roadmap for the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions across England and the respective government announcements for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Many people will be looking forward to getting back out onto the water again and enjoying their hobbies which they have been unable to pursue due to the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

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With many boats and craft been unable to be used and or checked during the lockdown we have put together this brief guide on how to prepare when the lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted and you are once again able to get out on the water:

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Engine Maintenance

The vast majority of boats engines will not have been able to be run and or maintained during the lockdown restrictions.  It is imperative that your engine is checked over, maintained and or serviced by a qualified service technician before you get back out on the water to avoid any issues or having to call out the services of a lifeboat and or the HM Coastguard when you get back on the water.

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The RYA run engine maintenance courses (many are now on-line) and the majority of harbour’s or marina’s will have their own service centre’s available to offer assistance. If you are in any doubt about the serviceability of your engine always consult a qualified service technician.  Fuel is often a contributory factor in a significant number of lifeboat and HM Coastguard call-outs to boats with engine problems on the water and you are recommended to get your fuel situation checked out before heading out.  It is imperative to change your fuel and oil filters, dip your fuel tank to ensure that there is contamination particularly where the boat has been berthed unused for a time.

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Lifejacket Maintenance and Checks

Your lifejacket is a vital piece of safety equipment that should be worn not matter the weather or sea conditions.  Therefore it is vital that you get your lifejackets checked before going out onto the water.  Unfortunately, due to the safety restrictions we have been unable to undertake our usual round of lifejacket clinic’s at local yacht clubs and events.  We have previously published a brief guide on how to check your lifejacket.  Our recommendation is that you get your lifejackets serviced regularly by a service agent.  If you are in any doubt about the serviceability of a lifejacket always consult a local chandler or service agent never take a risk as your life could depend on your lifejacket working correctly.

Wearing a lifejacket will buy you precious time until help arrives. Correctly fitted and maintained, a lifejacket will help you to float even if you’re unconscious. It dramatically increases your chances of survival if you fall into the water. If you’re in the sea and you’re wearing a lifejacket, you’re four times more likely to survive* Professor Mike Tipton Portsmouth University

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Battery Power

Batteries when left unused for significant periods of time will often lose their charge so it is imperative that you undertake a full audit and thorough check of all batteries that you possess including spares to ensure that they are haven’t developed any corrosion or faults during their storage period.  If you are in any doubt about the serviceability of a battery replace it or seek advice from a qualified service agent or supplier.

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Grab Bags and First Aid Equipment

Over time and subject to cold air/water in ingress items stored in grab bags and or on-board your boat or water craft can start to degrade unless stored according to manufacturers guidelines.  Kit that you would rely on in an emergency situation may have become degraded.  Therefore it is imperative to carry out a thorough check of all your grab bags, first aid kit and ancillaries that you carry before you go out onto the water after a period of inactivity.

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Servicing of Winches

It is also highly important to service winches at regular intervals to prevent inevitable problems with sails.

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Do You Know Your Safety Drills?

We have included a safety check list below as an aide memoire to refresh your drills before you head out onto the water.  John Homer one of our Community Safety Team says “Our advice is be always be prepared when you go to sea and have a well rehearsed plan should things go wrong. During the lockdown restrictions many people haven’t been able to get to their boats or craft to carry out servicing plans.  Our advice is to get things checked over before you go out.  If you are not sure get some qualified help.  What appears to be an insignificant issue that can be fixed easily in the harbour or marina, could be a huge issue if you are out at sea”.

Safety checklist
  • Always wear an appropriate lifejacket for the activity
  • Always carry a means of calling and signalling for help eg VHF radio, flares, fully charged mobile phone
  • Ensure there is an emergency action plan in place and everybody has an onboard briefing (in particular on the location and use of the safety equipment, including the spare kill cord for powerboats). Your crew members should be able to use all equipment competently and call for help on the radio when necessary.  The RYA run a wide range of courses which cater from novice upwards
  • Get the right level of training for your craft
  • Always check the weather and tide times
  • Make sure someone ashore knows where you are going and who to call if you don’t return on time. Consider using the SafeTrx smart device app
  • Always drive your boat at a speed that is appropriate to the weather conditions and to the environment you are operating in

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COVID-19 Pandemic Safety Protocols

Continue to adhere to the appropriate COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols wherever you visit and always check first with the relevant harbour or marina office what their particular risk assessment dictates.

Thank you for reading and take care!

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Further useful links

Engine Maintenance – RYA

Check Your Engine – RNLI

Emily’s Code 

Wearing A Lifejacket RNLI

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Acknowledgements

RNLI

Professor Mike Tipton – Portsmouth University

RYA

HM Coastguard


Andy Mills

Thanet RNLI Community Safety Officer Striving to reduce accidental drownings by 50% by 2024 by spreading key safety messages to Thanet communities and its visitors.