Safety at sea: 15 basic rules for safe cruising


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suzuki stacco di sicurezza

Summer is back and with it comes the desire to cruise, the holidays and even a bit of adrenalin, especially with powerful engines at the stern. In this article we told you how collisions and groundings are among the first causes of accidents at sea (CLICK HERE). But it is not only with the most powerful engines that we have to be careful. We all play a key role in safety at sea. We have received and are pleased to publish this vademecum from Suzuki Marine Italia with 15 unwritten but fundamental rules that everyone should read before casting off. For some it will be a refresher, for others a useful hint. Here are the 15 fundamental rules for sailing safely according to Suzuki.

The 15 basic rules for safe cruising

  • At sea, you are never sufficiently experienced, so it is necessary to have respect, rationality and common sense to dedicate yourself to this new passion, yachting. If you have never been on a boat, the first advice is to use it for the first time accompanied by someone who is already experienced, so that they can teach you the basics.


  • Those at the helm are reminded that it is absolutely important to wear the safety lanyard for switching off the engine. It can be worn on the wrist – the important thing is that it is tightly fastened – or it can be fastened to the swimming costume. In accidental cases where you lose control of the boat, it is an essential element for everyone’s safety. We also advise you to rehearse the man overboard manoeuvre over and over again, using a wing or the ring lifebuoy in its place, as it is taught in schools for obtaining a boating licence.


  • In Italy, it is necessary to take a boating licence from 40.8 hp upwards, but even for those with a lower horsepower engine, we recommend a boating school course, which not only provides the basics, but also allows you to acquire the minimum amount of practice to use the boat and its engine.


  • Make sure you are insured! In the event that your first boat is fitted with an outboard, remember that liability insurance must be taken out for it, whatever its power rating, which, as with cars or motorbikes, can be extended with other insurance cover, starting with theft and fire. Since the outboard is detachable and transferable from one boat to another, the outboard’s liability insurance also includes the craft on which it is installed.


  • It may seem obvious, but reading the user manuals of a boat or dinghy, outboard motor and possible undercarriage, certainly helps the neophyte. They are documents carefully produced by the manufacturers and contain fundamental information concerning, first and foremost, the safety of those who use them and those around them.


  • Among the documents, in addition to the insurance, remember to take the following with you on board: the engine power declaration or the engine use certificate or replacement document; the document indicates the power of the outboard engine in kW/hp and the engine capacity, to determine whether a nautical licence is required: if the engine has a power of more than 30 kW (40.8 hp) or a cylinder capacity of more than 1000 cc if a four-stroke engine, a valid boat licence is required to drive it; the same applies to water skiing and the driving of jet skis, regardless of engine power.


  • When you go boating, you have to do so with an adequate amount of fuel on board, so that you can be sure of getting back to your starting point, if possible without depleting your reserve. If refuelling in a car is not a problem because the network of petrol stations is widespread and it takes little to find one after the reserve light has come on, it is not exactly the same at sea. What is more, if the weather conditions are unfavourable – contrary sea to the route – what is physically close can become difficult to reach if we have our fuel litres counted.


  • Speaking of liquids, it is a good thing to also have an adequate reserve of water on board, because especially in the summer with the heat, drinking becomes even more of a necessity. If you plan to be on the boat for the whole day, you should stow at least 3 litres on board for each person on board.


  • Another thing that should not be forgotten ashore is the equipment on board, i.e. everything that is necessary, as well as mandatory, to carry for the safety of the boat and its passengers. As far as the use of the boat at sea is concerned, the obligation to carry safety equipment varies progressively depending on the distance at which one sails from the coastline, except when one is within 300 metres of the shore, a condition for which equipment is not required, although it is recommended. For the other limits, i.e. within 1 mile, within 3 miles, within 6 miles, within 12 miles, within 50 miles and beyond that distance from the coast, we suggest you consult the Coast Guard website


  • Since there are many things to take on board, it is also necessary to know how to stow them wisely so that the boat retains livable space and at the same time maintains a correct trim while sailing. This is why we recommend placing the heaviest items, such as the water reservoir, fishing box, fire extinguisher or a possible anchor, in the lowest and most central part of the hull (centre of gravity), possibly securing everything with a rope so that it cannot move freely and cause damage.


  • In order to keep the boat, and especially the outboard motor, efficient at all times, the periodic maintenance operations indicated by the manufacturer must be scrupulously adhered to. It is however a good idea to do a quick preventive check every time you go out to sea, of the main equipment on board such as the steering system, throttle lever, electrical system and bilge pump. If your boat has an internal petrol tank, always remember to operate the air extractor well before starting the engine.


  • If you have purchased a package that includes the outboard, the boat and its trailer for road transport, learn to manoeuvre by using a clear forecourt or the car park of a closed supermarket ‘as a gymnasium’. You can, for example, put plastic bottles to mark out the aisle into which the trailer can enter in reverse, like a ramp on a slide, and try, try, try…


  • After getting the hang of manoeuvring, learn how to launch and retrieve (wing) the boat from the water. Anche in questo caso acquisire esperienza è fondamentale.


  • A special recommendation for life jackets, which are compulsory on board, one per person present. Nowadays, there are comfortable ones on the market, self-inflating ones, really comfortable even in summer, which should be worn when the boat is sailing, by all persons present on board, for greater safety.


  • Last but not least, once out at sea, always keep in mind what we wrote at the beginning of this short guide: at sea, one is never sufficiently experienced, so to dedicate oneself to this new passion, boating, one must do so with respect, rationality and common sense.




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