Safety First

Who’s in charge?

One of the great things about boating is that everyone can muck in together. However at least one person needs to know the basics and to understand the safety guidelines.
So once you have chosen the “skipper”, it will be his or her job to make sure the crew and passengers have all the information they need to stay safe. It is a good idea to be clear on each crew member’s duties.

Good boating takes teamwork, so you need a competent crew who know how to handle the boat and how to stop the engine, who can help with mooring, moving through the locks, navigation and so on. As well as knowing the procedures, your crew should be aware of the safety risks in each situation and how to avoid accidents. It is also recommended you have a stand in skipper in case of illness.

Passengers who are not going to be helping with any boat handling still need to be aware of the basic safety rules, therefore the skipper must ensure that everyone on board reads through the safety information in the boat handbook.

Accidents need never happen providing that you and your crew take care. Follow these simple guidelines to ensure you have a safer holiday.


Always wear a lifejackets, however competent a swimmer you may be. Keep an eye on children at all times and make sure that they wear lifejackets whenever they are on deck, or close to the waters edge. Lifejackets are provided for each member of your party. Make sure that they fit properly and make sure that you wear them!

The Lifebuoy

All boats have a lifebuoy, which must be kept ready for use. Make sure that everyone knows where it is. Lifebuoys are there for your safety and should only be used in an emergency.

On Deck

  • Walkways on deck are often narrow and can be slippery, so always use the grab rails when moving about the deck and particularly when the boat is moving.
  • Make sure that everyone wears shoes with non-slip soles when on board.
  • Always ensure that everyone is below cabin-top level when passing under bridges.
  • Don’t dangle your arms or legs overboard – you could be hurt.
  • Don’t mop down decks when the boat is in motion.
  • Take care when using the boat hook etc. from a moving boat – it is easy to be dragged overboard.
  • All mooring ropes should be kept neatly coiled when not in use. Be careful not to stand on ropes when walking about on deck, as they can roll under your feet and throw you off balance. Take care also not to trap your fingers between the rope and bollard or mooring ring.
  • Keep off the roof when underway

Getting Aboard and Ashore

  • Never jump off a moving boat – it may crush you if you slip or fall.
  • Don’t leap the gap between the dock/pontoon and the boat when mooring – you could slip between the gap. Pull the boat closer with a mooring rope.
  • Look out for hazards on waterside paths, quays etc. and take special care after dark. Always take a torch with you and leave a light on in the boat.

Fending off

  • Do not use your hands, feet or legs to stop your boat from hitting the bank, a bridge or another boat – you could be seriously injured. Always use a fender.
  • Do not use your feet to push off your boat inside a bridge or lock.

Cruising Along

  • Remember that your boat has no brakes to stop it. You have to put it into reverse and it takes much longer to stop, so always think ahead.
  • Plan your journey for arrival at least an hour before sunset. This is especially on Loch Lochy and Loch Ness.
  • Do take water and weather conditions into account when manoeuvring your boat.
  • Don’t approach anyone in the water stern (back) first – this is where the propeller is.
  • Do not cruise at night or in conditions of poor visibility.
  • Watch out for small craft. It’s easy to overlook small boats sitting low in the water, particularly when they are near but obscured by your boat’s superstructure, or when you are looking towards a low sun.


Swimming in the lochs and canals is dangerous and is not permitted from your boat. If you do not comply and put yourself and others in danger your holiday will be terminated. The water temperature does not change winter and summer, 6 degrees all year round.

Drink and Drugs

It is an offence to be under the influence of drink or drugs whilst driving your boat, and will lead to the curtailment of your holiday.

If you fall Overboard

Despite good preventative measures, it is possible that someone will fall overboard and it is important to know the best way to rescue the person in the water

. Shout to ensure the rest of the crew knows you are in the water.

. Don’t thrash about – spread your arms sideways to help buoyancy.

. Be ready to grab any buoyant material close by, or anything thrown to you.


Make Sure All Your Crew Are Familiar With The Principles Of This Rescue Drill

. Whoever first spots the person in the water should shout to advise all onboard and indicate the location of the person in the water to the driver of the boat.  If the distance is not too great, throw a lifebuoy, life float, or other buoyant material near to the person.  Phone the coastguard on 999.

. The boat’s skipper must immediately turn the boat towards the person (this takes the propeller away from the person in the water).

. Approach slowly! The boat should be manoeuvred a few yards away at dead slow.  Once in position stop the engine or take it out of gear.  When you are near enough throw a lifebuoy or rope, not at the person, but near enough for them to grab it.

Recovery From The Water

. Pull the person aboard, preferably from the side (i.e. well away from the propeller).  A looped rope is the best method as the person can slip this over their shoulders.

. Don’t jump into the water yourself, unless the person is unconscious, or unable to help, and only as a last resort when there are enough people left on the boat to ensure that you will be able to get out.  Even then, only one person should enter the water wearing a buoyancy aid and secured to a rope held by another crew member.

. Everyone engaged in the rescue should wear a lifejacket.

. After recovery, remove wet clothing, keep the person warm and supply a hot drink – if there are any signs of injury call for medical help.  For emergency medical assistance dial 999.

Weil’s Disease (Leptospirosis)

Waterborne diseases, including Weil’s disease, are extremely rare, but it’s sensible to take a few precautions. If you’ve got any cuts or scratches, keep them covered. If you fall in, take a shower and treat cuts with antiseptic and a sterile dressing. Wash wet clothing before you wear it again. If you develop flu-like symptoms within two weeks, see your doctor and mention that you fell in the water. Not all doctors will know to look for signs of Weil’s disease, so do suggest it as a possibility.

Floatation Rafts

The Flotation rafts provided are for emergency use only and provide a means of survival until a rescue can be effected in the event of you being forced to abandon the boat whilst underway. They should not be used for any other purpose.


The Coastguard service is responsible for the coordination of search and rescue on the lochs- it is not a breakdown and recovery service. Every call to the coast guard is classed as an emergency situation and a report for very incident involving the coastguard is reported to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

We consider an emergency situation to be when people’s lives are in potential danger. Although serious we do not class a grounding incident as an emergency situation, only if the boat has been holed and there is a real danger of the vessel sinking would it be acceptable to call the coastguard. Therefore in the event of running aground you must contact the boatyard immediately so that we are made aware of the situation.