The advice of the French lifeboats service (SNSM) to amateur sailors
THE LIFEBOATS SERVICE, a voluntary association
The French lifeboats service is an officially recognised non-profit voluntary association by decree dated 30 April 1970 carrying out a public service in mainland France and the French overseas departments. Its task, undertaken by volunteers, is the saving (for free) of human lives that are in danger on the sea or on the coastline.
Three operational tasks:
-Offshore rescue carried out by volunteer on-board rescuers.
-The training of the lifeguards that monitor the beaches under the responsibility of the mayors.
-Initiatives for the safety of seafarers.
The key figures of the association (2009 figures):
Number of coast guard stations 225
Number of emergency beach posts 237
Number of training centres 30
Number of interventions 4748
Number of people rescued 8687
Casting off time for a lifeboat
Less than 15 minutes
Lifeboat availability 24/7, 365 days a year
THE ADVICE OF THE FRENCH LIFEBOATS SERVICE (SNSM) FOR AMATEUR SAILORS:
These are the basic rules for amateur sailors recommended by the French lifeguard service before taking to sea:
Check the weather forecast before taking to sea.
Inform your relatives of your destination and expected time of arrival. Do not forget to inform them that you have arrived safely or of any change of plans.
Your safety equipment must be readily available.
Check that it is in proper working order and acquaint yourself with the instructions for use. In the event of a problem, you will save precious time and increase your chances of survival.
Wear a life jacket or life vest.
Equip yourself with a VHF radio.
This is the most reliable way of calling for help (channel 16). Check that it works before taking to the sea. Failing this, call 112 with a mobile phone if you have mobile phone network coverage.
Be aware of the fuel consumption of your engine and your range given your fuel reserves.
Do not hold more fuel than is necessary and always ventilate the fuel tanks before use.
Do not exceed speed limits (harbours, 300m zone).
There should be at least two experienced sailors on board.
If this is not the case, show your passengers how to stop the engines, drop the anchor and call for help using the VHF radio.
In the event of problem, only leave the boat as a last resort. Should you capsize, stay with your boat and wait for help. It is much easier to spot a boat than a man at sea.
Acquaint yourself with the rules regarding right-of-way, signal lights, boat marks and marker buoys (Even if you are not required to have a sailing licence, it is strongly advised to be familiar with these rules)
In the event of an accident, call for help, even if you are unsure. The rescue response time is key.
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