The dinghy is the on the water version of the family car … when you’re anchoring out, it provides almost all your transportation to all the fun things you want to do … and sometimes to less fun things like laundry or jerry jugging diesel. Regardless, it’s critical that you remain in the dinghy! We’re heard horror stories of people falling out of dinghies and suffering serious injuries before the outboard prop can be stopped. We also know cruisers that have fallen, hit heads and drowned, so I take this post very seriously! PLEASE emphasize personal dinghy safety aboard your boat!
1. Carry life jackets in your dinghy. This is not a requirement in some countries and often cruisers leave the life jackets out, but it’s a good idea and they don’t take much space as compared to their value should you ever need them! We don’t usually wear them, but if it’s rough or if you’re landing through the surf, it’s not a bad idea if you’re not comfortable in the water.
2. Find a safe place to board and disembark the dinghy from your boat. Many boats have built special steps on the side if they don’t have a boarding/swim platform. Keep in mind you may need to board the dinghy when conditions are less than ideal — i.e. windy/rolly, waves slapping against the hull, etc. If you’re not comfortable with the setup you currently have, change it. Try a different ladder or step or use a different location.
3. Always remember the “one hand for yourself, one hand for stuff” rule. Never try to get out of the dinghy with both hands full!
4. Always use the red wrist band cord when operating the outboard. This cord attaches to the safety auto shutdown for the outboard so if the driver gets thrown free, it automatically stops the propeller. It also serves as a very quick way for the driver to yank the kill switch if a passenger gets thrown out of the dinghy.
5. Keep oars in the dinghy. If your outboard fails, you will need the oars to get back to your boat! And if the tide happens to be outgoing, you could drift a long way out to sea before anyone notices you’re gone if you have no way to propel the dinghy when the outboard takes a vacation!
6. We also carry a whistle, a bailing bucket (i.e. scoop cut from a plastic gallon vinegar jug) and a sponge in the dinghy.
7. It’s always a good idea to carry your dinghy anchor all the time. Make SURE it has the appropriate length of chain/rode for your cruising area. If your outboard quits, you can always drop the anchor giving you time to fix it. We’re not as good as we should be about this, but when we go snorkeling, we always have the anchor aboard.
7. The biggest personal safety tip of all … BE EXTRA CAUTIOUS WHEN BOARDING YOUR BOAT AFTER ATTENDING A CRUISERS COCKTAIL PARTY!!! We’ve known cruisers from Boot Key Harbor to The Swimming Pool/Holendes Cayes/San Blas Islands that have drowned when they accidentally fell and hit their heads getting out of the dinghy returning from a cocktail function. PLEASE be careful and safe!!!
Have I missed anything? Please leave comments and share! THX! Jan