Safety on Board

This is a supplement to our regular travel blog and not related to a specific trip or location. It’s no secret this liveaboard and sailing thing is new to us so I want to capture (and share) some of the details of our day-to-day life on board the Lily Belle. I have some time on my hands this month while Perry is working overseas. The first topic is safety and safety equipment aboard and will be a little longer than the other #boatlife posts. I’m sharing this information mainly for my mom so she doesn’t worry!

Many of these items are standard for any boat, but we are often surprised how people cut corners on safety equipment which we understand, because it’s not cheap, but we choose not to put a price on our lives. Those of you who know Perry and I well know how “OCD” we are so knowing we have all this stuff on board will not be a surprise to you. As coastal cruisers, we probably went a little overboard (no pun intended) but again, we have spared no expense to be able to save ourselves and our home in the case of an emergency.

For starters, our boat is a Class A yacht which means it is a vessel built to navigate in offshore waters, withstanding seas up to 21 feet and winds over 40 knots. We in no way intend to EVER test her in those conditions! Even though she is a “production” boat made of fiberglass, she is sturdy and, if we chose, could take her most any place in the world. We often joke that in many situations, the boat performs far better than Perry and I!

I recently posted a picture on Facebook of what we typically have on our person on a typical passage (versus a short “hop.”) Full disclosure–agree or disagree, in calm conditions, we do not always wear our personal flotation devices (PFDs.) If things start to get “sporty,” we are both really good about wearing them and simply do not hesitate. If they are not on, they are certainly handy! They are state-of-the art, top-of-the-line and don’t inflate until you hit the water (see photo below.) They have straps that go between your legs to ensure it stays put if you fall in. In wet shorts, though, the straps start to chafe in all the wrong places! Other than that, it’s so comfortable I could sleep in it, and have on occasion, slept in it.

We have a MOB (man overboard) device attached to our PFDs. It’s connected to an app on the iPad that alerts crew if someone falls overboard. We mainly use that when we are traveling at night or if someone will be down below for a spell. We also have AIS (Automated Identification System) personal locater beacons in our PFDs.  They transmit a signal as to our exact location to a rescuer. We also have a throw line to toss to said MOB to help get them back on the boat. We also do MOB drills once a month so we don’t forget how to get back to the MOB under sail.

Related to PFDs are jack lines and tethers. Jack lines are something we attach on each side of the boat that run from the bow to the stern. Tethers are used to attach you/your PFD to the jack line to prevent you from going overboard, or if you do, you are still attached to the boat and not floating away! ANY time we go up front in rough conditions, we are tethered to the jack line. Sometimes you have to go on deck to fiddle with a sail, adjust the ratchet, or futz with the anchor, so it’s a great safety feature. We also have the capability to tether ourselves into the cockpit.

Safety items are indicated (including cellulite!)

Perry tethered on deck

We also wear ID bracelets. If you think about it, we don’t carry driver’s licenses in our pockets nor do I carry a purse any longer so if you have to leave the boat quickly, or God forbid, someone finds you knocked out and floating, they know who you are and which boat you belong to. We use RoadID ( which means we have an online profile that can be accessed by any first responder or rescuer.  My sister is my emergency contact and her phone number is right on the bracelet.

Speaking of leaving the boat quickly, that relates to the topic of a ditch bag. Without a doubt, the MOST important safety consideration. The dinghy serves as our lifeboat so the plan is if we have to get off the boat quickly (on our own volition, or under the guidance of the Coast Guard,) the ditch bag is easily accessible to the helm. It’s full of all kinds of safety items and items one might need on shore after being rescued like medications, back-up eyeglasses, passports, a phone and charger, money, etc. It also includes items such as flares, protein bars, water, solar/survival blankets, a knife, etc. The main item the ditch bags holds is the EPIRB, or “big kahuna” locator beacon you set off so help can find you in the middle of the ocean if that’s where you happen to be!

The Ditch Bag and EPIRB locator device

Other safety related items we have on board:

  • Radar – we have used this in foggy conditions – also good for severe weather and traveling at night
  • Sirius Satellite weather – shows up as an overlay on our chart plotter (electronic chart at the helm)
  • InReach handheld satellite communication device
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire blanket in the galley
  • Smoke detector
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Back-up VHF radio
  • AIS (Automated Identification System) – a feature we added to our electronic chart/chart plotter – other boats around you with AIS transmitters show up on your chart so you can see them. We transmit a signal so other boats can see us right on their chart. Helps to avoid collisions.

AIS puts the little boats on the chartplotter

Bottom line? Relax and don’t worry about us! This equipment, along with our conservative approach to only traveling in conditions we feel we can handle, help to ensure we remain as safe as possible.