Every year, unfortunately, accidents happen while on charter. Make no mistake: Some of those are fatal. More often than not, there are due to lack of basic caution and common sense. We have gathered a few simple rules to help keep your crew as safe as possible. And remember: Always expect other boaters - especially in the heavily chartered areas - to do something not worthy of the best seamanship. So it is a good idea to take extra precautions to insure your crew safety. It is your duty as a skipper.
- All your crew and guests should be given a detailed safety briefing concerning snorkeling practice during your charter. It is important to emphasize that giving that information in an earnest manner is one of the skipper's primary responsibility.
- Guests should be advised to stay as a group when snorkeling, and should be prohibited to snorkel alone at any time, and, even more prohibited, to go snorkeling alone without advising other guests.
- One member of the group should attach to him/herself the diver down fly and float safety gear that should be supplied onboard every charter yacht. If the gear is not onboard, be sure to request it before leaving the dock.
- Snorkelers should be shown the prevailing current in the area and its direction. It is always a good idea to start a snorkeling trip against the current. That way, snorkelers will be carried back by the current toward the boat at the end of their swim, when they are the most tired.
- Snorkelers must inform the skipper and/or a member of the crew if and when they are going snorkeling and their intended location.
- Try to get a time frame on how long the snorkel trip is for.
- Guests should be advised to stay close to the shore or in designated snorkeling areas and warned against snorkeling near or in designated navigational channels used by any type of vessel.
- Advise guests to wear a bright colored t-shirt when snorkeling to help protect them from sunburn and also to help them being spotted in the water more easily.
- Stress the importance of being vigilant and aware of the surroundings as well as other boat operators in the area where they are snorkeling. For example, snorkelers should be attentive to the following:
- Any buzzing sound (probably a dinghy motoring in the area). If there is a dinghy approaching, snorkelers should make sure they have been seen.
- Their location relative to their boat. If a strong current has taken the group too far, the group should swim back to a reasonable distance.
- If the snorkeling group includes children, especially if they are young:
- The children should definitely wear a bright colored t-shirt and a life-jacket.
- An adult should hold each child by the hand at all time, especially in strong currents.
Snorkeling to check the anchor is set
- Ensure the diver down flag is displayed on the yacht when a crewmember is snorkeling to check the anchor. The crew checking the anchor should have the diver down fly and float flag with them.
- In addition a lookout should be placed on the foredeck of the yacht.
- Ensure that the skipper and first mate understand that the diver down flag should only be displayed from the yacht when someone is in the water and snorkeling to check the anchor or boat. The flag should not be left displayed for the duration of the charter. Correct and proper flag etiquette should be observed.
- All your crew and guests should be given a thorough safety briefing concerning safe kayaking practice during your charter.
- Before leaving the dock, try, if possible, to obtain from the charter company a pole and flag to be placed on the kayak when in use to increase visibility.
- Kayakers must inform someone of where they are going if kayaking alone.
- Kayakers must let someone on board know the planned exploration route and destination.
- Kayakers must give an approximate amount of time they plan to be away from the boat.
- The strength and direction of the current should be checked. Kayak trips should always start going against the current, and finish going with the current.
- Kayakers should preferably use paddles that are colored and clearly visible.
- Kayakers should wear a bright colored t–shirt/hat that is seen easily by other boat operators.
- Kayakers should wear a lifejacket / PFD.
- Kayakers must take sunscreen and enough water with them to avoid dehydration.
- Kayakers should be very vigilant and aware of their surroundings as well as other boat operators in the area where they are kayaking.
- Kayakers should not travel far away from the shoreline and definitely avoid kayaking out into exposed open water. There, the danger increases a lot in a swell where the kayaks are hidden in troughs.
- Kayakers should stay off designated navigational channels and/or heavily trafficked zones (with ferries and such).
- No one should be kayaking at night.
Skippers, do not be complacent about this. Place the safety of your party above any other consideration.