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How to brief your passengers

As autumn draws in, many of us may welcome guests onboard our boats. But what does a good briefing include and what might passengers need to know about your boat if anything happened to you?

Passengers putting on a lifejacket

Photo: RNLI/Andy Perryman

Ensure your guests wear a suitable lifejacket

Sailor and RNLI Lifeboat Trainer Matt Dann teaches our crews how to keep themselves and their rescuees safe onboard lifeboats and he has invaluable advice to offer.

‘All lifeboat stations use a planning form to brief everyone onboard before going out on exercise. Other emergency services like Coastguard, Fire Service and flood response use the same format too.

‘If you sail with less experienced sailors, have you considered how they will respond in the event of you falling overboard or having a medical emergency? Don’t assume people will just know.

‘Briefings are essential every time you go out, so have a plan, keep it simple and be consistent.’

It’s not only about safety: Passengers will get more out of a trip if they know their way around your boat, what to expect from the journey, and what to look out for along the way.

Matt notes: ‘If I came on your boat as a passenger, it would be a different briefing compared to if I was coming on as crew.'

Sailor and RNLI Lifeboat Trainer Matt Dann

Photo: RNLI

Sailor and RNLI Lifeboat Trainer Matt Dann 

RNLI Lifeboat Trainer Matt Dann offers his checklist of the key things to make your guests aware of:

1. Boat layout and moving around

Boat layout including galley, saloon, wheelhouse, head and how to use it. Location of kit on the upper and lower deck. Moving around the boat safely – one hand for yourself, one for the boat because the boat can move unpredictably.

2. The journey

Where you’re going and your route plan. How long you expect it to take, the weather and sea state expected, and things to look out for along the way. Also mention sun exposure and keeping warm.

3. Lifejackets

Where the lifejackets are and how to put one on. When to wear them (on deck). Ideally the lifejacket will be an automatic inflation, so explain how that works.

4. Emergency procedures

Mayday procedure, with a note of it next to the VHF radio. Man overboard reporting (shout to raise the alarm and point to hold their position). Also explain what to do should they fall in. Location of liferafts and how to get off the boat if it becomes necessary, along with fire control systems and alarms.

5. Boat controls

Basic boat and engine controls. How to shut off the fuel. How to start, stop and turn, and how to release the sails – and to do this the moment someone goes overboard.

6. Location of kettle, cups and biscuits!

For more information and briefing templates, visit