Have a plan
Be prepared; think ‘what if?’. Don’t ruin a good day out on the water with insufficient planning.
The extent of your plan will differ depending on the type of boat you have and the type of trip to want to take. A day in an estuary will need less planning than an offshore channel crossing for example.
Essential elements to your plan
Passage plan: This needn’t be complicated but an element of planning is required for even the simplest, and shortest of journeys. The plan will include elements including; your route, any hazards or navigational risks that need to be avoided and constraints that may limit your options. Passage planning is in fact an obligation for all seafarers by international agreement; SOLAS V. (GSA emphasis added)
Remember to plan for the unexpected: just in case weather conditions deteriorate or you suffer an injury look at the charts and pilot book before you leave and consider places where you could take refuge if necessary. Could delays lead to night time boating?
Navigation dangers: check with an up-to-date chart and current pilot book or almanac for any navigational dangers such as shoals, overfalls and buoyage.
Weather: before you go check the weather forecast and get regular updates if you are planning to be out for any length of time. Read more about weather forecasts.
Tides: check the tidal predictions for your trip and ensure that they fit with what you are planning to do. Why are tides important?
Limitations of the boat: consider whether your boat is up to the proposed trip and that you have the appropriate safety equipment and stores with you.
Engine: checking your engine before you set off could avoid breaking down when you are underway. Read more about engine checks.
Crew: take into account the experience and physical ability of your crew. Are they up to the trip you are planning? Are they kitted out with the right personal safety equipment
Don't forget to share your plan: with someone onshore who knows what to do should they become concerned about your well-being. You can join the MCA’s free Coastguard Voluntary Safety Identification Scheme (CG66) which aims to help the Coastguard get help to you quickly should you get into trouble.
GSA is a member of RYA. This article appeared on their website http://www.rya.org.uk/infoadvice/safetyinfo/Pages/Haveaplan.aspx, along with a number of other safety related articles. We recommend that you read and review those articles.