DONT LEAVE THE DOCK WITHOUT IT – A few months ago, I was part of a charter group that took a catamaran from a well-regarded first-tier charter company. As part of our inspection of the boat we noticed that the navigation lights weren’t working and we brought this fact to the attention of one of the company’s supervisors. “Don’t worry about that,” he said. “You won’t be sailing after dark."

This wasn’t a good enough reply and we pressed him on the matter. What if we get caught in a serious rain squall or a storm brews up? It’s not only darkness that indicates a need for navigational lights, “reduced visibility” is the phrase used in the relevant regulations. And what if the weather does kick up and we are obliged to move the boat after dark, perhaps to avoid another vessel dragging down on top of us? There are more than enough fast power boats running (illegally) around the BVI unlit in the dark hours without our plodding cat getting in their way.

This episode got me thinking about safety equipment and the relevant local requirements which I found on a document from the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry. The 10 most important features of this list (Below)

TOP10 SafetyDevices
This safety equipment list is for recreational vessels less than 20m (65ft) and details the requirements as follows.

  1. One wearable PFD for each person aboard, plus two extra. Type I or II are acceptable, spec’d to USCG or MCA standards.
  2. At least 1 throwable lifebuoy with lifeline.
  3. One flare kit with both day/night flares stowed in an accessible, portable watertight container.
  4. Appropriately sized fire extinguishers of the correct type.
  5. A horn or whistle or some other means to make an efficient sound.
  6. Navigational lights shall be displayed between sunset and sunrise and in any other periods of reduced visibility in accordance with the International Regulations for Prevention of Collision at Sea (1972), aka COLREGS.
  7. A marine radio (VHF). Cell phones do not satisfy this requirement.
  8. An anchor suitable for the size of vessel and with appropriate length of rope/chain.
  9. A bilge pump (handheld or electrical)
  10. A compass, dock lines, waterproof flashlights, fenders and a first aid kit complete the list.

Safety First!
The safety equipment list for recreational vessels is perfectly sensible and doesn’t require any discussion. Not only do you need all this kit, but it needs to be up-to-date and in good working order.   The full list can be obtained from the Virgin Island Shipping Registry at (284) 468-2902/03.

And remember VISAR are always there, on VHF CH 16, SOS on your 'phone (767), or
dial 494 HELP(4357).