Safety Boat Duties

Safety Boat Briefing

This section outlines the responsibilities of the Safety Boat driver and crew.  It also acts as an aide-memoire for those who do not do safety boat duties very often and need a quick reminder of some of the more important aspects of the training courses.

It is not a fully comprehensive summary of our training courses.  If you would like refresher briefing or training or practice please contact Steve Finney.

During this briefing we will refer to the sailing crew.  This includes both the helm and crew of the sailing vessel.

Quick Guide:


Always remember to check the boat and equipment before you leave the shore in line with recommendations.  More information can be found in the Powerboat Handbook.

Always check that you are suitably clothed for the conditions. Always check that you have a working radio and can communicate with the rest of the team and the shore.

Each safety boat should have the following equipment on board:

  • Anchor
  • First Aid Kit
  • Tool Kit
  • Safety knife in place
  • Two paddles
  • Boat Hook (incorrect location)
  • Tow Ropes (three – minimun one long rope)
  • Throw bag
  • Mooring lines
  • Kill cord (in place)
  • Spare kill cord
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Fuel Tank (with sufficient fuel for immediate needs)

Principle Responsibilities

People before property

The single most important responsibility is to attend every capsize, this could be at a distance.  Do a head count and check that the sailing crew is safe and whether they are in need of further assistance.

Normally the sailing drew will right their own boat and carry on, however, until a safe situation exists, the safety boat driver and crew should monitor the situation.

If the safety boat diver and crew feels that someone is at risk (injury or hypothermia etc.) then they should be prepared to over ride the sailing crew wishes and take the crew to safety.  Abandoning a boat is NOT a risk as it is unlikely to go anywhere.

It is possible to contend with multiple issues speedily by leaving the boat to its own devices (it wil usually invert and anchor itself with the mast in the mud) and sorting out another issue.


  • Your Safety
  • Safety of sailing crew rescued
  • Safety of other crews
  • Prevention of further damage to the boat or other boats
  • Recovery of boats

Even when not on duty, club members ashore should keep an eye on the water activities and be prepared to assist when necessary.  That can be to launch another Safety boat, ring for an ambulance, prepare first aid kit, advise safety boat of capsize that they may not be aware of.

Kill cord

ALWAYS wear the kill cord at ALL times.

A kill cord is coiled in its design to allow the driver the natural movement required when helming a boat.  Should the driver move away from, or be thrown from, the helm position the kill cord will detach from the console and the engine will stop.  Detaching the kill cord also allows a crew or passenger to stop the engine if the driver were to become incapacitated whilst at the helm e.g. they fainted.





The results of the 2015 RYA survey investigating the causes of kill cord and kill switch failure has recently been published: Read more survey information.  One particular item was storing of kill cords in position and the reliability of the switch over time when this is done.

We have a club recommendation to check the kill cord action every time the boats are used.  The club now have a key board on the wall near the entry door of the boat shed.  It is the club’s recommendation that at the end of each use, the ignition keys and kill cords be stored on the board.  The hooks are numbered to match the boats and if they get mixed, the big Honda engine on RIB One has a Honda Marine key ring, the engine on RIB Three is a Suzuki and this is on the key, the little Jeanneau, (little Honda engine) does not have an ignition switch and only a kill cord.

Basic Manoeuvres

These guidelines give an overview of options available, they are not intended to be exclusive.  Creativity may sometimes be needed to accomplish them safely.

Leaving the Jetty – Windward

  • RIB – Go off in reverse or use big sideways push and go ahead QUICKLY
  • Go bow into jetty to swing transom out, reverse out and go ahead when clear
  • Pilot -Big push sideways and get way on before it blows back
  • Go straight ahead when leaving the jetty

Leaving the Jetty – Leeward

  • Cast off and reverse away before going ahead
  • Cast off and drift down wind before going ahead
  • Beware of the transom when getting under way

Arriving at the Jetty

  • Approach at a shallow angle then:
    • Option One – Reverse engine and apply full opposite lock to finally stop boat and bring transom in.
    • Option Two – Come in slowly and do not sue reverse.  Small amount of lock will swing transom in.


Further details can be found in the Power Boat Handbook – start and end of day procedures – found on our members web pages.

Rescuing/Giving Assistance

People in the water.

The engine should be switched OFF when getting someone into the boat unless to do so could put the safety boat in danger e.g. close to lee shore.

The best line of approach is from down wind to allow better speed control against the wind.  Recover people either face in to side of boat and lift, or roll them onto the boat.  Ladders are fitted to the boats and a tow rope with a loop in it for the casualty to stand in, often works.







If a person is in distress:

  • Get them to shore quickly
  • Keep them out of the wind (Generated by the speed of the boat)
  • Do not give them HOT drinks or Alcohol
  • No artificial heat.

Dinghy rescue

If the crew are OK just standing by may be sufficient.

Dinghy has inverted and mask is stuck in the mud.  It is almost inevitable that modern dinghies will try to invert.  This will result with the mast stuck in the mud unless they are near mark 7 where it is deep enough to turn turtle.

If the sailing crew has got the boat level, you can help by pulling the bows of the capsize boat into the wind by pulling on the forestay at the stern head fitting.  This will ensure that they come upright into the wind.  Keep moving gently into the wind even when the capsized boat is upright as this will keep the boats stable and head to wind.







If the mask has got stuck in the mud, you can tie a rope arond the shroud and pull in line with the mast until the boat come level and then head to the bow to keep it under control.

Rembmber that you can help to keep the boat level by moving gently into the wind, as the sails will act as a wing and rise to the surface.

If the crew needs help to get the boat upright from this horizontal position, pull upwards on the forestay.  You will need to be near the spreader level to get enough leverage as the boat comes up you will need to move down the forestay quickly to maintain contact with the boat.

Remember you are likely to get wet and if you don’t move your hand position down you could take off !








Sometimes you can help the recovery situation by rotating the capsize craft so that its bows are nearly into the wind.  You can rotate the boat from either the bows or mast head.  Beware inverting the burgee if operating from the mast head.  For some reason this annoys the boat owner.  Smile


Alongside:  You should have in place a bow line, stern line and 2 springs running fore and after to take the loads.

Practicality dictates that this ideal option may not be optimal, so select the number of ropes that you need depending on conditions.  If winds are light (such as assisting craft home on a windless Tuesday night) holding onto the shrouds may suffice.  Ask the helm to push the plate up and steer to follow you.

Remember that the engine of the safety boat needs to be astern of the towed boat to give reasonable manoeuvrability when towing. Boats should be ‘Toed in’ if possible.

Astern:  Take tow rope around forestay and then around the mast and get the helm to hold on.


For OK dinghies it may be necessary to make a bow loop from their painter.  If this is not practical, use the tow rope only round the mast BUT BE VERY CAREFUL AS YOU COULD FLIP THE TOWED BOAT.

At tow boat end use the bridle to keep the rope clear of the engine.  Don’t make fast unless absolutely necesary.  Ask dinghy helm to push the plate almost up and steer to follow you.

Final Thoughts

In addition to hypothermia, Dehydration is a very high risk to dinghy sailors.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Pale skin, perhaps masked by exposure to sun and wind
  • Stopping sweating is a sign of serious deterioration
  • Thirst, or lack of thirst, should NOT be seen as a good sign of condition


South Staffs Sailing Club is a friendly club that has members of all ages. We cater for all abilities, from beginners to experienced sailors.

As an RYA Training Centre we provide courses that will enable sailors, whatever their ability, to flourish and really enjoy sailing at the club. If racing is something you aspire to do you will find competitive fleets and tuition available to improve your skills.

We have an active and thriving junior section, with a team of dedicated trainers committed to ensure the children have a fun time and are able to develop a real passion for the sport.

The club has a regular programme of social events and the club members always enjoy any excuse to arrange a good party.

If you would like to visit us, the club is conveniently placed adjacent to Jct 12 on the M6 and just off the A5 near Cannock. You will be made very welcome.

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Why should I sail at South Staffs Sailing Club?

South Staffs Sailing Club is considered to be an extremely friendly club that welcomes new members. You will be joining a group of people who love the sport of dinghy sailing, and are more than happy to share that enthusiasm. The club is run on a self help basis and joining in with the tasks that are needed for the club to function, enables new members to quickly make friends and settle in. For many it has become a long term passion and many members have been active in the club for many years, and for some there are three generations still active.

The club is an approved RYA Training Centre and facilities are available for both adults and juniors. Learn to Sail and Improver courses for adults are run each year. Sunday morning sessions are available for juniors to develop their confidence and enjoyment for the sport. Additional supported free sailing sessions are also available to allow practice and to provide time for skills to be developed.

We have a dedicated team of race coaches, including sailors who have been both National and World Champions so any level of ability at adult or junior level can be accommodated.

Easy access from Staffordshire and the West Midlands via the M6, M6 Toll, A5 and A449. The club is approximately a mile from Junction 12 on the M6.

The club offers competitive fleet racing. We sail a range of single and two handed boats that will suit all standards and sailing abilities. Our fleet captains, instructors and coaches will ensure that everyone can develop their skills and get the maximum enjoyment from sailing at the club.

The club has a strong family foundation, and in some cases multiple generations of the same family are club members. The membership costs reflect that belief and junior membership (up to 17) can be at no or minimal costs when joining with sailing adults. Concession rates are also available for students.

The Social aspect plays an important part in integrating  new Members to the Club and introducing them to other members and so making new friends.

It  has always been a very active aspect of the Club with a variety of events over the Year to suit all ages and tastes. From Quiz Nights, Car Treasure Hunts, Wine Tasting, Summer Ball, Christmas Dinner, Mince Pie Night with Carols and our own Orchestra,  An Annual Dinner Dance and our own House Band all prove very popular.  The Junior Team also put together a very interesting series of Social events for our younger Members.