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RNLI Safety advice for Boat Anglers at sea

December 10 2008

Tony Clare is RNLI Sea Safety Manager, North Division

As one of the fastest growing family sports in the UK, Boat Angling presents a fun way for the family to get afloat while enjoying fishing from the boat off our Coastal Waters. Although the boat itself is the vehicle to get to the fishing grounds where the hobby takes place, the sea has a history of being un-predictable and dangerous so it is essential that basic safety considerations are adhered to in order that the trip is enjoyable rather than possibly fatal.

The RNLI run a Free Advice scheme for leisure boat users called SEA Check and is designed to give expert advice on the sort of safety equipment that small boats should carry as matter of course. This scheme has been incorporated into the Safety Policy of many Boat Angling Clubs in the North West of England and is now the benchmark for Club Members to aspire to.

However, in addition to the safety equipment all leisure boats should carry and know how to use. These 5 Safety Tips are;-

• Wear a lifejacket.
• Check your engine and fuel.
• Tell others where you are going.
• Carry some means of calling for help.
• Keep an eye on the weather and tides.

There are also certain specific safety factors that can apply to Boat Angling.
The benefits of joining a Club are immense from the wealth of experience available to help with launch and recovery and the buddy system when members new to the sport can launch and fish alongside more experienced anglers. This is great for safety reasons but also increases the enjoyment factor. Flotation suits are very popular now with boat anglers and have benefits of limited buoyancy and warmth. They will help support a person in the water but please remember, boats can sink or you may be thrown overboard unexpectedly, possibly un-conscious, and these suits are no substitute for a 150 Newton, self inflating, correctly fitting Lifejacket which has correctly adjusted crotch straps. While the suit will provide some buoyancy there is no guarantee of it keeping a person face up in the water which could subsequently lead to drowning. The lifejacket, when worn correctly, will do this and can be easily fitted with reflective tape, a whistle, knife and spray hood.

Many of the small boats used by anglers have no specific fairlead, roller or cleat on the bow to allow safe anchoring and, when accepting a tow from a mate or Lifeboat, this may involve having to rig a bridle round the hull which is not only time consuming but can be dangerous even in calm weather. The eye bolt under the bow, which is used for winching the boat onto the trailer, should never be used for anchoring and towing due to its inaccessibility. Also, due to the limited deck space on smaller boats, this is often seen as a substitute for a correctly fitted roller, fairlead and cleat which will keep the anchor or tow line centrally over the bow. Any other position can lead to danger of capsize and inability to release the rope in an emergency so, if you don't already have this equipment fitted to your boat, please consider doing so. In the event of being towed by Lifeboat a Crew Member may be put on board your boat to help secure the tow. Please let them get on with it as they are skilled boat handlers and know what they are doing.

While motoring out to sea or in an emergency situation, secure stowage of rods, boxes etc is vital. These items can cause injury if left lying loose on deck and can severely hamper rescue services. Rods present a particular hazard in an emergency situation, particularly when still rigged with hooks and weights, and should not be left in rod racks either astern or on the cabin but should be secured flat on the deck, out of the way and, if possible, dismantled. The least clutter there is, the lass hazard to all involved. All other kit should be secured away in lockers. Help us to help you!

These are a few of the safety tips specific to Boat Angling which can be further explained by having a Free RNLI SEA Check on your about at a time and place convenient to you. This service can be contacted by ringing the Free Phone number 0800 328 0600 or through our Website

Tony Clare.
RNLI Sea Safety Manager, North Division.