It is important to consider before hitting the water the choice of personal equipment you will use and most vital of all will be your choice of life jackets or buoyancy aid. The differences between life jackets and buoyancy aids are as follows:
A life jacket will turn an unconscious casualty face up in the water. Usually powered by a small gas canister that inflates the life jacket, often automatically on hitting the water, these are ideal for children and those who aren’t confident on the water. They are also the recommended option for anyone alone on a boat.
You won’t get as much buoyancy from a buoyancy aid as you would from a life jacket and they won’t turn an unconscious person face up, however they can support a conscious swimmer sufficiently. Buoyancy aids are usually preferred by those engaging in water sports and who are good swimmers, confident in the water.
If you are taking instruction in operating a powerboat, such as on a Powerboat Level 2 course or the RYA Helmsman course you will be expected to wear appropriate buoyancy depending on your experience and comfort. If in doubt, take a life jacket for the best protection.
Beyond your buoyancy you will need to consider appropriate clothing for being out on the water and naturally there are options to suit all budgets and conditions. The following are some examples of appropriate clothing based on the weather and conditions:
Even in the highest temperatures you will need to be wearing at least a top, shorts, appropriate footwear and, often, a hat. In such conditions you should always remember to take sun cream and a windproof or waterproof jacket for once the sun goes in. It can soon get very chilly when you’re exposed on the open sea.
Be sure to have windproof and waterproof clothing as well as appropriate waterproof boots. If possible, opt for clothing with breathable under-layers.
Cold and Extreme Weather
If you will be regularly out on the water in the cold it is well worth investing in a full dry suit. Wearable over your normal clothing these suits are fitted with special seals to keep water out and allow you to completely submerge underwater whilst remaining dry. For this reason they’re ideal for safety boat crew although some people will prefer a wetsuit, simply embracing the fact they’re going to get wet.
Other essentials to remember whilst at sea are hats (for keeping warm and to offer protection from the sun), sunglasses, sun cream, goggles, drinks, snack foods, medication (including anti-seasickness pills or bands) and towels.