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Pleasure craft - safety equipment

It's sensible for all boats to carry safety gear but pleasure craft over 13.7 metres long must carry certain life-saving and fire safety equipment. Find out what your boat should have on board for any voyage.

Life-saving equipment

You must carry on board an illustrated table of the recognised life-saving signals. This is so that you can communicate with the search and rescue services or other boats if you get into trouble.

You must also carry certain life-saving equipment, including:

  • lifejackets for everyone on board, including any children
  • life rafts
  • flares
  • fire extinguishers

There are regulations stating what you need depending on how big your boat is and how far you are travelling away from the coast.

Wear a lifejacket

Even if it's not required by law, it's sensible for everyone to wear a lifejacket in case anyone falls overboard.

If you're in charge of the boat, it's your responsibility to make sure your crew's lifejackets fit properly and they know:

  • where the lifejackets are stored
  • how to use them

Lifebuoys and a throwing line

You must carry at least two lifebuoys if your boat is more than 13.7 metres long. Make sure they are mounted where they can be thrown quickly in an emergency.

Lifebuoys should be marked with your boat's name and come equipped with:

  • an automatic light with a continuous beam or a strobe
  • retro-reflective tape
  • a drogue, which prevents drifting

The lifebuoy should be attached to a buoyant throwing line (at least 18 metres long). This brightly coloured line may be coiled inside a throwing sack with a loop or handle and can be tied the boat in an emergency.

Practise throwing the line with your crew - it can be difficult to throw one accurately.

Get the right radio equipment

Having a maritime radio on board will help you communicate with the coastguard or another boat if you get into difficulty.


Pleasure craft that are more than 13.7 metres long must carry at least:

  • four red hand flares
  • four white hand flares
  • two orange smoke flares
  • four parachute flares

Make sure you use flares safely by:

  • firing flares slightly downwind so they reach a good height
  • not firing flares near radio masts or superstructures, or if a helicopter is near by

Before your trip, show your crew where the flares are kept and make sure they understand the firing instructions. Store flares in a waterproof container and check them regularly.

If your flares are out of date or damaged, you must dispose of them properly and safely as soon as possible.

Inflatable liferaft

You can hire liferafts - they are essential for long trips. You need to carry enough liferafts to hold at least the total number of people on board.

Your liferaft should be regularly serviced and stowed where it's ready for immediate launching - not below deck or beneath other equipment.

Fire safety equipment for pleasure craft

If your pleasure craft is more than 13.7 metres long, you need to carry at least:

  • four multi-purpose fire extinguishers (each with a minimum fire rating of 13A/113B) or a combination of smaller extinguishers with the equivalent fire rating
  • a fire pump that can deliver one jet of water from a distance of six metres (the pump can be powered or hand powered)
  • two fire buckets, made of metal, plastic or canvas, with lanyards (a rope attached to the bucket)

Maintain and check fire blankets and extinguishers regularly. Make sure your crew knows where this equipment is kept and how to use it.

First-aid and emergency repair kits

In case someone gets injured, make sure you carry a first-aid kit on board and someone is trained to use it.

Follow the link below for a guide to the items that go in a first-aid kit and how to use them.

Put together an emergency repair kit that includes things like:

  • tools and a stainless steel knife
  • a waterproof torch and batteries
  • lubricant and sealant
  • a glass reinforced plastic (GRP or 'fibreglass') repair kit
  • bungs, heavy duty tape and rags
  • link belting, spare fuel filters and pump impellers

More useful links