Before you set out on any trip, it is important that you plan your journey properly.
You must have an understanding of meteorology, tides and navigation, ensure that you have sufficient equipment on board your craft, and brief your crew on safety matters.
You must always take into account the experience and physical ability of your crew.
Being the skipper of a vessel means taking responsibility for your actions. Your safety and the safety of your crew are in your hands. You must match your knowledge to the conditions and never put either the crew or the vessel at risk. Remember alcohol and the sea don't mix,
You should ensure that you brief your crew on the following:
- man overboard drills
- how to operate flares
- sending a distress message
- launching the life raft
- leaving / returning to a mooring / berth
- how to anchor
- safety procedures
Engines, VHF and GPS
- operating and disabling the engine
- isolating the boat's batteries and gas supply
- operating the VHF radio
- using the electronic GPS navigation system
- how to wear and operate lifejackets and maybe a deck harness
- where to locate extra clothing
Limitations of vessel
You should consider whether your boat is capable of undertaking the proposed trip and be aware of the limitations of your craft. Do not overestimate its speed or ability to handle difficult conditions. Remember that the sea and weather can change rapidly.
You should also make sure that there is sufficient safety equipment and stores on board. One of the main causes of incidents in local waters is due to lack of fuel. Use the rule of a third when calculating how much you require: 1/3rd out, 1/3rd to get back and 1/3rd in reserve. Don't rely completely on your fuel gauge; have a back-up method of measuring the contents of your tank/s.
Weather and tidal observations
You should always check the weather forecast before you set off, and get regular updates if you are planning to be out for any length of time. Be prepared to change your plans or cancel the trip if the forecast is unfavourable.
VHF Channel 82 weather broadcast times
06:45 local time 12:45 UTC
07:45 local time 18:45 UTC
08:45 local time 22:45 UTC
The tides around Jersey and vicinity of the Bay of St Malo are the third largest in the world, with over a 12m range on spring tides. Check the tidal predictions for your trip and ensure that they fit with what you are planning to do and the route you are planning to take. If the tide turns to a wind-against-tide direction, the sea may become much rougher. An ebbing tide may create dangerous areas of shallow water.
All vessels in local waters should not:
- exceed 5 knots at any time within the harbour, closer than 200 metres of the water's edge in any bay, within 50m of any beach lifeguard-flagged areas or around Les Ecrehous, Les Dirouilles and Minquiers
- tow anyone without having an experienced person accompanying the driver, to supervise the person being towed
- use the craft for anything other than what it was designed for by the manufacturer
Further information on this can be found through the following links:
Download General Direction 1: Harbours (Inshore Safety) (Jersey) Regulations 2012 (size 273kb)
Download maps showing 5 knot speed limit areas (size 2.5mb)
Make sure you are familiar with any navigational dangers you may encounter during your boating trip. Check up-to-date charts and a current pilotage book or almanac.
If you are unfamiliar with the area, seek advice before you set sail. It is vital that you know, and remain familiar with, the meanings of different navigational marks.
St. Helier harbour approaches
All vessels should approach St Helier using the approved routes and maintain a listening watch on Channel 14 (St. Helier VTS) for any commercial shipping movements and port information.
A precautionary area exists for all vessels entering and departing St Helier.
You should ensure that you carry the correct equipment during any voyage. The introduction of the Shipping (Safety of Navigation) (Jersey) Order 2009 is part of Jersey's responsibility under Chapter V of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, otherwise known as SOLAS V.
Most of the SOLAS Convention applies only to large commercial ships, but parts of SOLAS V apply to small, privately owned pleasure craft.
If during an investigation into a boating incident it was shown that a contributory factor to the incident was non-compliance with these requirements, then appropriate legal action may be taken.
Passage planning is an essential requirement of SOLAS V and details what items pleasure vessels in excess of 7 metres long are legally required to carry.
SOLAS V requires:
- electromagnetic compatibility of on-board systems
- recording navigational activities
- lifesaving signals
- assistance to other craft
It also covers the misuse of distress signals.
Pleasure vessels in excess of 7 metres long are legally required to carry the following:
- a properly adjusted standard magnetic compass
- a hand bearing or other compass
- charts and navigational publications
- radar reflector
Always have a contingency plan. Before you go, you should consider the places where you can take refuge if conditions deteriorate or you suffer an incident or injury.
It is sensible and good practice to make sure you are not over-reliant on your electronic navigation systems that rely on electrical power to operate and you can navigate yourself to safety using paper charts, visual aids etc.
You should also make sure that someone ashore knows your plans and understands what to do if they become concerned for your wellbeing. Never change your plans without informing those ashore too.
Jersey Coastguard will receive, log and when requested amend traffic reports (TRs) received from pleasure vessels on VHF Channel 82 or by telephone on +44 (0) 1534 447705.
For more information, see VHF Logging and Traffic Reports