From Coastal cruising to Category 1 offshore yacht racing and for all of our boating ambitions, there's a variety of the best boat safety equipment required onboard.

Getting started in boating you’ll be advised by anyone with an opinion that you should get the best boat safety equipment. The list can be mind boggling.

I do double handed offshore yacht racing and at the start of every season I have an updated check-list to meet regulations. Despite years of doing this, it is still a bit of a faff.

safety gear lined up on a boat

This Gibsea 90 has a danbuoy, horseshoe, rescue sling, safety tethers and lifejackets all lined up around the cockpit after a cross channel passage. No boat is too small to fit the safety gear in or on. 

A good boat skipper or yacht master will always prepare their boat for the unwanted scenario. From a person falling overboard, injury onboard or having to abandon your boat due to a catastrophic event such as fire or sinking.

Whatever your sailing ambitions, boat safety equipment cannot be scrimped on. This should be part of your annual boating budget. But if you buy wisely, then you’ll make your money go further at no expense to safety.


Spinlock Deckvest 6D

Reasons to Buy: Form fitting sculpted design, Bright colour of casing is stylish. Excellent elevated lighting and reflective visibility. Good snug fit holding user high in the water. Excellent sprayhood. Harness release system.

Reasons to Avoid: The bladder is a darker orange and may not be as visible as some of the brighter bladders available. The extra sculpting can make the lifejacket feel a bit stiff to wear and makes it heavy.

Specifications: 170N autoinflation | harness release system | crotch strap | sprayhood | lumeon bladder illumination | automatic strobe light | adjustable body height

Verdict: This is an outstanding lifejacket with great performance across the score board. The standout features are the lighting, both elevated and lumeon, lighting the entire bladder. The essentials are labeled and easy to find and this feels like a lifejacket that has really been designed with the user in mind. Every query has been answered. If we were challenged to find a way to improve this, we’re really not sure how we would.

Read our buyers guide to lifejackets: Best lifejackets for boaters & sailors: 15 of the best options tested

Personal Safety Lines and Tethers

Seago Safety Line

Reasons to Buy: Easy to see clips with bright lime/yellow colour, smooth webbing line doesn’t snag easily, safety hook as standard

Reasons to Avoid: make sure you buy the correct number of hooks and length of tether to suit your need.

Specifications: comes in a range of lengths and choice of two hooks or three hook version.

The Seago safety tether, much like the majority of the safety tethers and personal life lines on the market has the anti tripping hook so that it can’t be accidentally unhooked from your strong point. These tethers come with a 1.5m webbing between them. You might need a shorter one to be race category compliant or one with three hooks.


Deck harnesses

Baltic Safety Harness

Reasons to Buy: lighter to wear than a lifejacket, easier to move around in than a lifejacket, less expensive to replace if weather worn

Reasons to Avoid: useless unless actually tethered to the boat and is not a substitute for a lifejacket

Specifications: Wide adjustable webbing straps spread the load comfortably | Secure fastening | Can be worn under a lifejacket | reflective panels for greater visibility

Baltic make a range of good quality marine safety gear, their harnesses are well respected by both leisure sailors as well as commercial users. This harness has wide easy adjustable straps with a back panel to spread the load, a reflective strip on the shoulder and a simple metal flat square ring closure commonly found on lifejackets. it also has a crotch strap to avoid the harness riding up should the wearer fall or be suspended by a tether.


Personal locator Beacon (PLB)

Ocean Signal PLB3

Reasons to Buy: Highly specified top of the range combined beacon, only one device to cover all aspects of personal location, ideal for keeping devices to a minimum especially on fully crewed or commercial vessels

Reasons to Avoid: may be too large to fit comfortably in some lifejackets, premium price

Specifications: Near field communication enabled for battery check and tracking | Personal locator beacon with return link | AIS unit | capable to be armed to auto activate when lifejacket is inflated

The Ocean Signal PLB3 won a DAME award at METS trade in Amsterdam 2022.

What’s so special about this PLB?

Well,  it’s the first combined unit that has BOTH 406MHz and AIS radio transmission signals.

Essentially they’ve combined the PLB 1 and the MOB 1 and have this resultant big stick of both.

As you can see, the unit is considerably larger than any of the current personal locator beacons or ais units,  but it’s also no larger than having one of each of the smallest units available from the same manufacturer.

It can be set to auto activate with lifejacket inflation with an arming plate that pops off, and after hands-on testing we can confirm that this does fit into the majority of lifejackets.

Read our buyers guide to personal beacons: Best personal locator beacons and AIS units: 8 top options for boating


Personal AIS beacon

McMurdo FastFind Crew1 AISMOB beacon

Reasons to Buy: Slim flat design fits virtually all lifejackets, easy to operate, lightweight

Reasons to Avoid: none


The McMurdo personal AIS beacon has been in this current shape and form for over 10 years now. The simple function is what makes it a safe bet as a personal safety addition to your lifejacket.

Designed to be either manually or autiomatically triggered upon lifejacket inflation, the AIS beacon sends out a localised radio signal to all vessels in the vicinity capable of receiving a VHF radio distress signal.

On your AIS receiver screen the signal appears, usually, as a X in a circle and is identified as a MOB sign

Read our buyers guide to personal beacons: Best personal locator beacons and AIS units: 8 top options for boating


MOB retrieval sling

Seago Rescue Sling

Reasons to Buy: A tried and tested method of MOB retrieval. Simple system to use,

Reasons to Avoid: May be hard to use on a fast racing yacht, requires additional lifting gear

Specifications: Yellow line and high visibility yellow or white  container | UV stabilised polypropylene line | Rail mountable | 30m floating line

The Rescue sling system is a familiar product for many, and is made in slightly different colours and formats by a few different manufacturers. The principle is the same though. The Seago rescue sling lives on a rail by the cockpit and can be rapidly deployed by a quick release velcro top. The sling is thrown into the water and the floating line, whose end is pre secured to a strong point on the boat, pays out as you drive the boat in a circular motion around the casualty. (easier said than done in a real life emergency) The conscious casualty can arrange themselves into the sling and then they can be pulled alongside the vessel for either hoisting out of the water by the lifting strop or assisted to a ladder.



Ocean Signal RescueME EPIRB1

Reasons to Buy: Very small size can be mounted in tight spaces, long  user serviceable battery life, available as cat 1 or cat 2

Reasons to Avoid: the aerial needs to be pulled out before use, small size might be fiddly for large hands

Specifications: Connectivity technology: Gps | Battery life 48 Hours | dimensions L8.9 x W8.9 x H17.8cm

The Epirb 1 until recently was the top of the range epirb of choice for leisure boaters. It has been recently been updated in the form of a new higher specced model, but this Epirb 1 still offers perhaps the best value for money in a small unit.
The battery has a 10 year life span and is user serviceable. It is lightweight and has a really small footprint when clipped onto a bulkhead or mounting point. The example in the above image is fitted to Tech Editor Fox Morgans sailboat.

Read our buyers guide to EPIRBS: Best EPIRB: 5 emergency beacons for leisure sailors


Hand held VHF

Standard Horizon HX890E VHF handheld marine radio

Reasons to Buy: DSC enabled, GPS, good battery life

Reasons to Avoid: It may be a little large/heavy for some, premium price

Specifications: 6W transmit power output | 700mW Loud Audio and Noise Canceling Function for both TX/RX audio | Available in Navy Blue or Black | Submersible IPX8 Construction and it floats | DSC (Digital Selective Calling) | W2.60’’ x H5.43’’ x D1.50’’  | 66 channel WAAS GPS Receiver | 11-hour Operating Time | MOB (Man over Board) feature | Water Activated Emergency “WHITE” Strobe Light | Dual Watch and Triple Watch | NOAA Weather Channels with Weather Alert | FM Broadcast Radio Receiver | Micro USB Data jack for PC programming | 3 Year Waterproof Warranty

This Standard Horizon top of the range radio won a 5 star review from us in 2022. The battery life was impressive and the performance and functionality of the portable radio unit was excellent. It fits comfortably in the hand and the controls fall naturally at the finger tip. When tested the float and flash was bright and easy to distinguish in the dark. Suitable as a main boat radio for smaller craft it’s possible to plug in an external aerial and an extra mic.

Read our buyers guide to handheld VHFs: Best handheld VHF marine radio: 11 feature-rich options for your boat


Grab Bag

Sea Devil Grab Bag 1

Reasons to Buy: Built in Buoyancy, wipe clean outer, mesh pockets for EPIRB and VHF, smart design, Made in UK

Reasons to Avoid: It may be a little small for a fully crewed racing yacht

Specifications: fire resistent  | Grab Handle | Roll Top | inherent buoyancy | 30cm x 35xm x 15xm | external mesh pockets for EPIRB and handheld VHF or sat comms.

Anyone heading offshore needs to consider what if they needed to abandon to a liferaft and take only the bare essential for survival.

The Sea Devil Grab Bag 1, with its easy to open but secure roll-top closure is designed for anyone heading offshore, cruising or racing. It meets racing criteria as this bag has inherent buoyancy with built in closed cell foam. It has a grab handle and a detachable shoulder strap.

On each side is a mesh pocket, one designed for any model of EPIRB currently on the market and the other pocket fits a hand held radio or sat commes device.

On the rear of the bag is an area for you to write your boat name, call sign and MMSI numbers. It is designed and made in Southampton UK.

If you accidentally drop this in the water in the dark you should be able to find it as it also has SOLAS reflectors on the base and top.


First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

Reasons to Buy: contains most basic items needed, sturdy box is universally recognised, easy to view contents

Reasons to Avoid: not a waterproof box

Specifications: contains all standard first aid kit, such as bandages, plasters, triangular bandage , safety pins, medical tape, sterile wipes. eye wash, gauze and scissors.

You don’t need me to tell you the virtues of having a first aid kit, but you really should have one onboard. I have three first aid containers on my boat, there’s a sealed pack for offshore use, but there’s als the day to day first aid kit in a familiar green box that I reach for everytime someone cuts a finger or cuts themselves on something. Skinned knuckles are common so the sterile wipes should be plentiful.


Life Rafts

Ocean Safety Ocean Standard Liferaft

Reasons to Buy: Reputable manufacturer, lots of service centres available, available in either valise or canister

Reasons to Avoid: Choose the right capacity and level of onboard equipment for your crew size.

Specifications: Insulated floor | Highly visible orange canopy |4 x 30 litre water pockets | Zip closure on entrance | Rain water collection and dispenser system | Automatic light | Canister or valise

If you head offshore or go out of sight of land, a liferaft must be part of your consideration. Whether you opt for liferaft rental or purchase your own depends on where you plan to g sailing and how often.  Buy the best liferaft you can afford. Where possible see the liferaft inflated and familiarise yourself with it in the comfort of a clean dry showroom or service centre. There’s differnet styles of entrance ladders and a few other differences that might make a difference to your personal ability to use the raft in an emergency situation.