James Stevens explains which skills are best to perfect while you have plenty of time to do so. This week, understanding your MOB and lifesaving kit

Understanding your lifesaving MOB kit

James Stevens

James Stevens, author of the Yachtmaster Handbook, spent 10 of his 23 years at the RYA as Training Manager and Yachtmaster Chief Examiner

Yachts carry MOB and lifesaving equipment for the same reason that they carry insurance. And in the same way we don’t read the insurance small print, we often don’t quite get round to reading the instructions for the safety kit.

As an instructor, when people’s eyes glaze over during the safety brief, I remind them to reflect on what the coroner would say if they had the safety equipment on board but didn’t deploy it. Get to know your Danbuoy, horseshoe buoys and MOB retrieval kit.

The best place to stow a liferaft is on the stern of the boat, in a cradle on the pushpit or, ideally, in a dedicated transom locker, so it’s available even if the keel fails and the boat inverts. Many new yachts have a dedicated liferaft locker.


Is your lifesling attached to the boat with the line outside the lifelines? How you ever looked at what’s inside the bag?

For most of us, it’s usually in a canister on the coachroof, or in a valise in a locker. It’s worth thinking where you are going to attach the painter and how you are going to manoeuvre the heavy liferaft over the side.


The perfect mounting for a liferaft: no heavy lifting and always accessible – even if inverted

Few yachtsmen ever have to enter a liferaft, but you should know how to inflate, enter and survive in one. The best way of learning that, and much else besides, is an RYA Sea Survival course. I have to express an interest as I introduced it in the early ‘90s. My wife has done only one RYA course: that one.


It’s likely to be rough, have you worked out how to manhandle your heavy liferaft from its stowage to the water?

Briefly, the procedure is that the raft is inflated, usually to leeward, by pulling the painter. If it’s inverted try to right it from the boat and keep it alongside. Once inside remember the mantra, cut (the painter), stream (the drogue), close (the canopy), and maintain (bail out the water etc). The raft will only have very basic kit inside because, assuming you are in coastal waters and can call for help, you will only have to put up with it for a few hours. If you are intending to undertake an ocean passage you need to learn about and carry the equipment for long-term survival. It’s all covered in the course.


It’s a big step. Hopefully you’ll never have to make it, but if you do, it helps enormously to know what to expect

The 1979 Fastnet Race disaster taught us that liferafts should only be used if the yacht is sinking. During the storm 24 yachts were abandoned of which 19 were later recovered still afloat. However unpleasant it is on the yacht, you’re more likely to survive by staying onboard.

On to lifejackets: the enquiry following the loss of the yacht Ouzo in 2006 established that a properly adjusted lifejacket can triple your survival time in water. None of her three crew had crotch straps, but they are now standard on nearly all marine lifejackets. Set yours up to fit properly.


Have you tested your lifejacket’s light? Do you know how to deploy the sprayhood?

Open up your lifejacket. It will have a gas inflation cylinder and firing head, manual inflation tube, whistle, retro-reflective tape, lifting becket and ideally a sprayhood and light. Practice deploying the sprayhood as you may have to do it in the dark. Check the cylinder is in date and corrosion-free. If it’s not, it needs replacing anyway so give the lanyard a tug and see what happens when it inflates.

Swimming while wearing a lifejacket is hard work, and so is entering a liferaft. Again the sea survival course, with pool session, is well worth the trouble.



Life in a liferaft, during a F6 in the Bay of Biscay

Life in a liferaft

Ever wondered what life in a liferaft is really like in rough weather? Yachting Monthly's Chris Beeson packed his sick…



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