How to Practice Solo Boating Safely

Boating Alone? Here’s How to Do It Safely

For some people, boating is a fun group activity, and a great way to bond with family and friends. For others, it's an opportunity to get away from people and enjoy the quiet calmness of nature. There's nothing wrong with either philosophy, but if you're going to boat alone on a consistent basis, you should understand that going solo presents some additional risks – and you'll need to be proactively careful if you want to stay safe.

Why Solo Boating Is Dangerous

You've been out on the water 1,000 times. You know your boat inside and out. You've managed to avoid any serious incidents or catastrophes. So obviously, you're immune to danger, right?

Unfortunately, many experienced boaters have this attitude. But the reality is, no matter how much experience or knowledge you have, boating by yourself can be risky. In fact, one could argue that experienced boaters are at greater risk of danger because they don't take the danger seriously.

There are two big reasons why solo boating is especially risky:

  • No one can help you immediately. Boating alone means you're alone; no one else will be able to step in and help you. If you suffer from a medical event or become incapacitated, you won't be able to send up a flare or activate your radio. If you get thrown overboard, there may be no one around to see you. If you go for a walk around the neighbourhood by yourself, it's only a matter of time before someone else sees you, but on the open water, there may be no one around for miles.
  • The water is unpredictable. Additionally, the water is unpredictable. Weather forecasts aren't perfectly accurate. Your boat equipment isn't perfectly reliable. Experienced boat captains can still make mistakes and judgment errors. And even if everything else is perfect, you could suffer an unexpected and sudden medical event that makes it impossible for you to recover from an emergency. There's simply no telling what risks or dangers might affect you.

How to Practice Solo Boating Safely

So, what can you do to practice solo boating safely?

  • Inform others. Before you venture out onto the water, let someone know where you're going. That could mean creating a full charter documenting your plans or simply letting a friend or relative know what you intend to do. This way, if you don't return home at the expected time, someone can contact emergency services and begin searching for you. It's an important failsafe that might save your life. You can also use the RYA SafeTrx app, which makes this process quick and easy.
  • Be extra cautious with weather prep. It's always a good idea to check the weather forecast before heading out, but it's even more important if you're going to be by yourself. Inclement weather can turn a relaxing journey into an active nightmare in a matter of hours, and sometimes minutes. Accordingly, you should plan a bit more conservatively. If there's even a hint that the weather could turn on you, reconsider your journey.
  • Bring emergency supplies. Always keep your boat packed with emergency supplies, including a properly fitted life jacket, radio equipment, flares, extra clothes, extra food and beverages, and a first aid kit. These are important materials no matter how many people are in your boat, but they're even more important when you're by yourself. Run a quick check before departing to make sure these supplies are intact and still functional.
  • Become familiar with your comms. Build confidence with using your communication systems, including your main radio as well as backup forms of communication. You should be able to operate these systems under stress and pressure, and you should be able to signal for emergency help if and when you need it. It's also helpful to have a satellite phone that can help you make contact if your primary VHF radio fails.
  • Use a kill switch. Most modern boats are equipped with safety stop lanyards that cut off your engine if disconnected, usually because of urgent circumstances. If you're traveling at high speed, this is indispensable; if you're thrown overboard, the emergency switch will be pulled out and the boat's engine will cease.
  • Understand your individual limitations. Have enough humility to understand your individual limitations. Don't try to do anything that exceeds your knowledge or physical capacity while you're by yourself. For example, if you've never loaded or unloaded a boat by yourself before, consider doing so with the assistance of a friend or at least a nearby witness who can step in to help if necessary. If you're sailing, don't attempt any dangerous or risky manoeuvres.
  • Wear your lifejacket. You may hate the look or feel of this life-saving device, but it’s important to wear your lifejacket at all times when you’re alone. No matter how surefooted you feel or how calm the waters are on this particular day, there's always a chance you could be thrown overboard. If you find yourself in the water, a lifejacket may be the only thing that can save your life.
  • Wear sunscreen. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen! Even on overcast days, the heat and UV radiation from the sun can get to you. Mild sunburns don't constitute an emergency, but heat stroke and severe sunburns do.
  • Don’t drink. Finally, avoid drinking alcohol or consuming other mind-altering substances. These substances can impair your judgment and interfere with your ability to make rational decisions, so they’re best avoided entirely on a solo journey.

If you appreciate boating as a solitary hobby, you can rest easy knowing these preventative and precautionary measures will help you prevent the majority of at-sea catastrophes. But it's important to remain vigilant, as anything can happen on the water.

If you're looking for a vessel ideal for solo journeys, or one with more space and amenities so you never have to boat alone, you're in the right place. TheYachtMarket has new and used boats for sale from all over the United States and Europe – so start browsing and see if you can find the perfect fit!

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