Safety & Education
Whilst the RNLI's aim is to save lives at sea, the Institution has always taken the view that 'prevention is better than cure'. Sea safety is a key strand of the RNLI's message.
Nearly 200 people die in marine-related tragedies around the UK and Irish coastline every year and the RNLI has a strategic goal to halve the number of coastal drownings by 2024.
A key step towards this goal is the RNLI's Respect the Water campaign (click here) and whether you are angling, scuba diving, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, kite-surfing, kayaking, boating or just enjoying a day at the beach you will find valuable advice and tips on the the main RNLI website's Sea Safety page.
For all water users
Tides and weather
Check the state of the tide and weather forecast for the period you are planning to be out. In particular, consider what the wind is likely to be doing relative to where you are (if you are going to the beach and using inflatables, will it be blowing you onshore or offshore, for example?) and what the temperature is likely to be. Remember that the temperature at sea is going to be cooler than on land and take appropriate clothing.
Let someone know
Make sure that someone on land knows what your are planning to do, where you are planning to go and, importantly, when you are expecting to return. That way, if something goes wrong, there will be someone on shore who can raise the alarm.
For beach users
Below are the RNLI's top tips to stay safe on the beach:
- Wherever possible, always swim at a lifeguarded beach.
- Always read and obey the safety signs, usually found at the entrance to the beach. These will help you avoid potential hazards on the beach and identify the safest areas for swimming.
- When on a lifeguarded beach, find the red and yellow flags and always swim or body board between them - this area is patrolled by lifeguards.
- Never swim alone.
- If you get into trouble stick your hand in the air and shout for help.
- If you see someone in difficulty, never attempt a rescue. Tell a lifeguard, or, if you can't see a lifeguard, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
For boat owners
Jersey adopted the SOLAS V convention in 2009. SOLAS V puts legal obligations on boat owners before they go to sea including the requirement to passage plan, record navigational activities and to carry appropriate communications equipment. Jersey Coastguard has a useful page on SOLAS V which can be found here.
Whether they're training or out on a shout, RNLI crew members always wear lifejackets. They know that, whatever the weather, the sea is extremely unpredictable and can turn at a moment's notice. A lifejacket will keep you afloat (the right way up), if even you are unconscious, and make you easier to find and pull out. The water around Jersey is relatively cold and this makes anyone falling in susceptible to 'cold water shock'. Which means that, however good a swimmer you think you are, you may be unable to stay afloat easily. So, please have and wear a lifejacket - they're pretty useless unless worn.
If your lifejacket has an automatic inflation mechanism, please make sure that it works. That means that the gas cylinder should be correctly fitted and working properly.
Marine Distress Flares
Flares have two purposes, to attract attention over a long distance and to pinpoint the vessel in distress. The use of distress flares indicates that there is grave and imminent danger to life or a vessel.
- Hand held red flare:- This type of flare is visible up to about three miles in daylight or at night. They should only be used if you can see land, a boat or an aeroplane. If you can not see anything, a parachute flare could be used, then the handheld ones used when a potential rescue craft or aeroplane is in sight.
- Orange smoke flare:- These may be hand held or floating, both have a range of one to three miles and can only be used in daylight when you can see a potential rescuer. Because the smoke disperses quickly, try to fire a smoke flare in a sheltered area, if it is operated from the downwind side of the vessel.
- Red parachute flare:- These flares are rockets, which rise to about 300 meters, then drift down with a bright red light on a parachute. Because of the height these flares can be seen up to 25 miles away, but only if the weather is clear enough.
Recommended number of flares
- Inshore, 5 miles away from land:- 2 hand held red and 2 orange smoke.
- Coastal, 7 miles from land:- 2 hand held red, 2 orange smoke and 2 red parachute
- Offshore, over 7 miles from land:- 6 hand held red, 2 buoyant orange smoke and 4 red parachute.
You should always refer to the manufacturer's instructions on each flare and check them regularly to ensure that they are in date. You should also refer to the manufacturer's website from time to time to make sure that a batch has not been recalled, which does happen on occasion.
A VHF radio is the best way to communicate when at sea. It has several advantages over a mobile phone, not least that it does not need to be in range of a mobile signal to work. One other key advantage that VHF radio offers is that allows lifeboat crews and the Coastguard to take a bearing on the direction from which the VHF signal is being transmitted, which will make locating a boat in distress much quicker.
Engine and fuel
Each year we rescue a number of craft which have either broken down or have run out of fuel. So please get your engine serviced regularly and check your fuel before you head out. We would recommend using a qualified marine engineer for servicing as they will be able to spot mechanical problems which are particular to engines used in the sea, particularly in relation to salt water corrosion.
Where possible, an alternative means of propulsion should be carried. Engine failure alone is not a distress situation: it does not warrant a Mayday call or the use of flares unless lack of power has put the boat and crew in grave and imminent danger.
We have also included some links to various resources which will be of help to anyone who is planning to use the shores and sea around Jersey, or elsewhere for that matter. (Each link opens in a new browser window)
1. Jersey shipping weather forecast issued by the States of Jersey Meteorological Department
2. Ports of Jersey's Weather Dashboard including shipping forecast, 5 day forecast, tide times, buoy observations and marina gate times...