Safety tips you should know before travelling by water

Safety tips you should know before travelling by water

Water transportation is the movement of people and goods by boat, ship, barge, or sailboat across various bodies of water such as ocean, sea, lake, canal, or river. Although it is considered one of the most cost-effective means of transportation, travelling by water is also deemed very dangerous due to the nature of the environment.

As it is such an exciting and adventurous means of travel, it is natural for some people to get engrossed and forget to do the necessary things to ensure their well-being and that of the entire passengers. Therefore, this piece provides travel safety tips for individuals travelling by water to forestall any calamity.

Travel safety tips for water transportation

The following are travel safety tips that motorists should abide by while travelling by road:

Ensure the boat/ship is in good condition

The captain of the ship and the passengers must confirm that the boat or ship to be used is in good condition before sailing out. The captain should inspect the ship/boat thoroughly before departure, preferably three to four days. A full maintenance check should be done on the watercraft, preferably a professional shipwright.

Also, the captain must ensure that certain components are available in the boat/ship, such as:

  • Tools and spare parts;
  • Lifejackets;
  • Lifeboats;
  • Tarpaulin;
  • Bucket(s);
  • V-Sheet (water transportation’s equivalent of motor’s C-caution);
  • Mirror or old CD (Use as a signalling device to reflect the sun and attract the attention of a passing boat or people on-shore;
  • Marine radio;
  • Rope(s).

Passengers should also do their part to ensure their safety by checking the inspection report of the ship/boat before booking/purchasing a ticket. The report gives an overview of the watercraft’s condition and will indicate whether it is safe for usage or not.

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Travel with an emergency kit 

Travelling by water means that all occupants of the boat/ship are kilometres or miles away from the shore where emergency officials are based. Therefore, in an accident, first aid treatment will need to be administered before the emergency service arrives at the scene.

Items to include in the emergency kit include:

  • First aid box (bandage, plaster, methylated spirit, adhesive tape, iodine, gloves, paracetamol, CPR pocket mask, scissors, safety pins, anaesthetic spray, first aid manual, gauze Pads);
  • A file of the medical history of travellers in the vehicle and emergency contacts;
  • Emergency blankets;
  • Water;
  • Medications;
  • Non-perishable food items;
  • Torchlight;
  • Compass;
  • Knife;
  • Whistle;
  • Emergency mobile phones;
  • Extra phone chargers.

Pack only essentials and necessary clothing

Unlike vehicles used for road transportation, the stability of boats and ships is not just down purely to the captain’s ability to navigate skillfully but also how the watercraft can float against the current of the water. Subsequently, it is best if boats and ships are overburdened with heavy loads, especially if they are passenger-built watercraft.

Travellers are, therefore, expected to pack a portable suitcase, preferably a large backpack or duffel bag, and stuff it with only the important clothes needed. Such clothes should include a swimsuit, large gowns or trousers (to keep your body warm from splashes of water), a dinner gown (if cruising) and a small number of clothes needed at the destination.

Also to be packed are things such as sunscreen/suncream, sunglasses, a hat, a pair of shoes/flip flops, toiletries, hand sanitisers and the necessary identity documents (ID card/voters’ card/NIN slip/driver’s licence; passport and visa; ticket/boarding pass; ATM cards e.t.c.).

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Check weather conditions before moving

It is very important that the captain checks the weather condition and gets confirmation from authorities before sailing off. This is because inclement weather is a major factor that has caused boats and ships to capsize. According to, bad weather causes about 75 percent of accidents that affect watercraft.

Therefore, having general knowledge about understanding the weather is important. Check and understand the weather forecast before setting out to sea. If the weather is not favourable, it is best to suspend that trip and plan again than lament the cancellation or fantasise about the weather situation and then venture into the adventure of the raging waves and suffer the perilous consequences.

Also, if your ship or boat is already sailing at sea and the weather suddenly changes for the worst, head straight for the nearest shelter ashore.

Avoid overloading of ship/boat with passengers, cargo

This is re-emphasising an earlier point about the weight load on the ship or boat. Overloading is a major cause of accidents on the sea; it is one of the easiest ways to get the boarded watercraft to capsize. A typical example of such accidents is the illegal migrant boats that regularly capsize on the high seas while on a voyage to Europe.

So, if a boat or ship is loaded, it is safe not to board it and wait for the next available one. Do not also cramp the watercraft with much cargo; instead, passengers should only board with the essentials packed in a portable suitcase or bag.

Ensure all passengers wear life jackets

One of the most important travel safety tips for both captains and passengers is that they must use their life jackets. As stated earlier, life jackets are one of the mandatory items that must be on a ship or boat before leaving the harbour. Life jackets protect everyone on board boats and ships in the event of turbulent times. Children’s life jackets must also be available and fit correctly.

Before starting the trip, the captain must confirm that all passengers in the watercraft wear their life jackets correctly. After ensuring that, the captain must also wear their life jacket before setting off on the journey.

ALSO READ: Why every home must have a first aid kit

Do not swim unnecessarily

Swimming in measured pools is a different kettle of fish from taking a dip into a river, sea or ocean. As said repeatedly in this piece, the current of the water in open water is unpredictable and uncontrollable. This means that the swimming techniques used in a pool by recreational swimmers are different from the ones while surfing in rivers, seas or oceans. Therefore, only professional swimmers or trained lifeguards can be deemed skilled enough to swim in open water.

There have been clips on the Internet of people diving into the deep water in the ocean from their boats or ships, embarking on recreational swimming. Such actions are wrong. This is because, in the case of a sudden change in the water current, it may become difficult for such persons to successfully navigate the raging waves and get back to the boat, leaving them to get drowned. Also, such persons may be susceptible to attacks from aquatic animals.

Therefore, it is best not to swim while the watercraft is in motion. However, those who insist on doing recreational swimming must ensure that a professional swimmer or lifeguard is on board to act as a guide and rescuer in case of emergency. In the same vein, in the case of either a capsizing or an armed attack by pirates, there is the need to jump off the watercraft and ensure that you swim close to the persons as mentioned earlier to rescue you from danger.

Limit alcohol consumption while onboard boat/ship

Being on a boat or ship can be quite fascinating, and passengers sometimes enjoy themselves by having a bottle(s) of booze while either chatting, reading or watching movies as they soak in the scenery of nature. It is easy to get carried away in the party mood, but it is pertinent to be mindful of consuming substances while on board.

This is because alcohol impairs judgment, coordination and balance; it affects a person’s ability to swim well. Passengers, therefore, have to exercise caution by drinking responsibly while travelling on a boat or ship.

Plan all journeys accordingly

In addition to checking the weather condition, as stated previously, captains should figure out what time they will set out and how many hours they will be sailing before embarking on their trip. It is important because night-time travelling is not suitable for safety, security, and visibility. Any trip after 6:30 pm should be aborted due to these reasons.

The captains must also know the routes they will move through and utilise their GPS to help them navigate the sea. They must also ensure that their fuel or diesel tanks are filled up and have enough extra to take care of them. Also important for passengers to consider is that they plan by making reservations for the hotels and lodgings where they will stay on arrival at their destination.

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Gabriel is a trained political scientist, and a qualified and versatile communications professional who has worked as a journalist and Public Relations executive. He has a knack for content creation and development and is a keen digital native interested in all things good.
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