Water Safety 

Search and Rescue 

First contact for search and rescue anywhere on the system is H.M. Coastguard via Channel 16 V.H.F. or telephone 999 and ask for Coastguard. The Coastguard are supported by the R.N.L.I. at Portrush, Lough Neagh Rescue at Kinnego, Ardboe and Antrim with various other organisations assisting. H.M. Coastguard also have a team of locally based Coastguards operating around Lough Neagh. Community Rescue Service operate on the Lower Bann and can be contacted via PSNI 999.

Boating Basics
These paragraphs iare designed for newcomers to boating, but we hope it will also be a handy reminder for the more experienced boaters.
Remember in an emergency anywhere on the system

Call The Coastguard On Channel 16 V.H.F.
Or Telephone 999 and Ask for Coastguard
Read this section before you set off, and keep it nearby for reference. Of course, you won't become an expert overnight just by reading - and it's impossible to cover every aspect of boating, every type of boat and every eventuality.
Courses in boat handling are an excellent investment. 

Who’s in charge?
One of the great things about boating is that everyone can muck in together. But at least one person needs to know the boat-handling basics and to understand the safety guidelines.

So, once you've chosen a 'skipper', it'll be his or her job to make sure your crew and passengers have all the information they need to stay safe.

Good boating takes teamwork. So you need competent crew who know how to handle the boat and how to stop the engine, and who can help with mooring, moving through locks navigation and so on. As well as knowing the procedures, your crew should be aware of the safety risks in each situation and how to avoid them. It's also a wise precaution to have a stand-in skipper in case of illness.
Passengers who aren't going to be helping with any of the work still need to read and understand the basic safety rules.  

Before setting off
Before you set off, take a few simple tips for trouble-free boating.
• Check your boat's in good condition and meets seaworthiness standards. Make sure you and your crew know how to handle the boat - and that you know how to handle it on the waterway you're using
• Get local information if possible before going onto unfamiliar waterways. On rivers, get information on stream conditions and any tides
• Plan your cruise and allow enough time to complete it without rushing
• It's not a good idea to cruise in the dark or when visibility's bad - if you must, take extra care
• Make sure that you have more than enough fuel for your intended cruise
• Make sure you've got a tank of clean water
• And remember - alcohol impairs your judgement and makes accidents more likely

  Equipment checklist
Make sure you have these aboard and know where to find these items:
• Lifebuoy, lifeline and enough lifejackets or buoyancy aids for all on board
• Anchor - the rope and chain together should be at least six times as long as the depth of water.
• Fire extinguishers and fire blanket
• Compass
• V.H.F. Radio and practical knowledge for use
• Flares
• Emergency shut-offs for battery, gas and fuel
• Charts and maps of where you intend to cruise
• Bilge pump
• Emergency light
• Mooring ropes - long enough to stretch from your boat to the bollard and back, even when you're in a deep lock
• Mooring stakes and hammer
• Horn
• First aid kit
• Boat pole or hook
• Gangplank and boarding ladder
• If possible GPS and practical knowledge for use
• Bucket and lanyard
• Fenders
• Mobile Telephone 

Rules of the road

 T he International Rules for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea apply on the Lower Bann, Lough Neagh and
 Associated Waterways.


“The following is intended as an aide memoir and not as a working knowledge of the International Rules.”
General Principals
The risk of collision exists if the bearing of the other vessel remains constant or nearly so.
Always keep a good lookout
Proceed at a safe speed according to conditions, visibility, traffic etc
Take early and obvious action when giving way
Vessels with right of way should hold a steady course and speed. If action becomes necessary, avoid turning to port
Vessels less than 20m in length should not impede vessels using a traffic separation scheme or vessels confined to a narrow channel
Power driven vessels approaching head-on: both turn to starboard
Power driven vessels crossing: the one with the other vessel on its starboard side gives way

All Vessels
Give way to:

• Vessels fishing
• Vessels not under command (unable to manoeuvre)
• Vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre
• Vessels constrained by their draught
• Any vessel they are overtaking
• Vessels coming downstream
• Vessels leaving locks and jetties

Vessels under Power
Give way to:

• Vessels under sail

Vessels under Sail
Give way to:
• Vessels sailing to leeward
• (If on port tack) vessels sailing on starboard tack

Sound signals
The following are some of the more common international sound signals
1 short blast = Altering course to starboard (going to the right)
2 short blasts = Altering course to port (going to the left)
3 short blasts = My engines are going astern (I'm trying to go backwards)
2 long blasts + 1short blast = I intend to overtake you on your starboard side
2 long blasts + 2 short blasts = I intend to overtake you on your port side
1 long + 1 short + 1 long + 1 short = I agree with your intention to overtake me
1 long blast = Warning at bridges and blind bends
5 or more blasts = Your intentions are unclear

N.B.
One “short blast” means a blast of about one second’s duration
One “long blast” means a blast of from four to six seconds’ duration

Boating jargon
Back = stern
Front = bow
Left = port
Right = starboard

Manoeuvring (Powerboats)
Start the engine and keep it in neutral until you're ready to move off. Untie the bow and stern mooring ropes from the bank, and leave them safely stowed, coiled and ready for use. On rivers, untie the downstream rope first. Make sure your ropes can't trail in the water and get caught in the propeller. If you're using mooring stakes, don't forget to stow those and the hammer too.

Push the boat away from the bank so you can make a clean get away, with your propeller in deep water. In shallow water, push the stern of the boat out, and then reverse away until there's room to straighten up.

When the boat's straight, go into forward gear and accelerate gently to cruising speed.

On all waterways, you drive on the right(port to port rule). In practice, on most canals and rivers, you'll keep to the centre of the channel - it's shallow near the edges - unless there's another boat coming towards you. You should slow down when passing anglers or moored boats to avoid rocking them about.
Boats come in different sizes, shapes and materials - and they all behave differently. Before you set off, spend some time getting to know your boat.

If your boat has a weed hatch make sure your propeller is clear of debris, but take care. Turn the engine off and take the key out of the ignition. Wear gloves if you can. Watch out for weed cutters in front of the propeller.
Steering a boat with a wheel is like steering a car, but it's more difficult to judge where your wheel should be for going straight ahead. Get to know the feel of the wheel and the rudder position before you set off.

Using a tiller to steer is simple - as long as you remember that pushing to the right will make the boat head left and vice versa.

Your boat pivots from a point about halfway along its length. That means you need to watch out for the bow and the stern. If you line up the bow only and then try to turn into a narrow gap - a bridge or lock, for example - you risk hitting the side with the stern of your boat. You can't steer unless your boat is in gear. Remember - no gear, no steer. 

Because boats don't have brakes, you need to give yourself plenty of time to stop - especially when travelling downstream. Ease off the throttle, move into neutral and then use short bursts in reverse gear to slow down and come to a final halt. Remember that it's more difficult to steer when you're in reverse gear

 Grounding
Every skipper goes aground at some point - it's not necessarily a disaster.
Don't try to force your way over the obstacle or you'll find yourself even more stuck. Instead, use reverse gear to back away into deeper water.

If you're firmly stuck - or if the water's too shallow for the propeller - use your crew's weight to tilt the boat by moving them to the side of the boat that's still floating. Now use the pole to push off. Remember, though, you need to push against a solid object or the bed of the waterway - if you put the pole straight down and try to use it as a lever, it'll either break or you'll fall in. And keep the top of the pole away from your face and body, in case it slips suddenly. 

  Special safety tips
Always be aware of what’s happening around you - on the boat, in the water and on the banks
Don’t let passengers stand or sit in the way of the tiller
Think ahead and make sure you’re lined up for bridge and lock entrances well in advance
Slow down almost to a stop and carry out all your manoeuvres as slowly as possible.

Stop short of where you want to moor with your boat straight and in deep water. Move forward very slowly, pointing the bow of the boat towards the bank, then use reverse to stop the boat just before the bow hits the bank. Put the engine into neutral.

On rivers, you should always moor with the bow of your boat facing upstream or into a very strong wind. So, if you're heading downstream, you'll need to pass the mooring and turn your boat around. Allow for the fact that the water level may rise or fall by as much as 3ft (1m). If you are in the tidal section of the Lower Bann, do not bank moor overnight.

Your crew should step ashore - not jump. They can either carry the ropes with them - making sure there's plenty of slack and that one end is fixed to the boat - or you can pass them the ropes once they're on land.
To keep your boat secure, you need to tie it to the bank with a rope from both the bow and the stern. On rivers, you should fix your upstream rope first.

Many mooring sites have bollards or rings to tie up to - choose ones a short distance beyond the bow and the stern of your boat. Run your ropes at about 45º from your boat, loop them back onto the boat and tie securely, but not too tightly.
To stop your boat moving backwards and forwards in flowing water, you can use 'springs' -  

If there aren't any bollards or rings, use your mooring stakes, but check the stability of the bank and watch out for signs of underground pipes or cables before you start hammering. Knock them in to about half their length and make sure they're firm. Mark them with a piece of light-coloured cloth or a white carrier bag so that walkers can see them clearly, and don't tie your ropes across the towpath.

Leave a little slack in your ropes - that's especially important on the tidal estuary or the rivers. If the ropes are too tight and the water level drops, your boat could be left hanging from the bank.

Remember that your anchor should be used if you need added security

Safety Tips
Make sure you know how to use your ropes properly. Keep them coiled, free of knots - and don’t drop them in the water.

Two useful knots
                                                                                                       Locking hitch 

Quick release clove hitch

Can I tie up here?
Ask the person in charge or use signposted visitor moorings wherever possible. Double-check that you’re not a hazard to other boats or to people using the waterway. Leave room for other boats to tie up too.
Don’t tie up:
• In lock entrances
• In locks overnight as the water can leak out or in of the chamber
• Near bridges
• Near weirs
• Near sharp bends
• By blind spots
• Near designated wildlife sanctuaries
• At junctions
• To the bank on the tidal estuary - you might find yourself hanging from the ropes when the tide goes out!
• In stretches marked for angling

Locks

There's no mystery to using locks - just a series of step-by-step tasks. Know the procedure, take your time and you'll be on your way with no problem.

A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end. By emptying or filling that chamber with water, your boat can move up or down onto a new section of the river.

With the lock gates closed, the lockkeeper opens the sluices to let the water in or out. When the water level under your boat is the same as the level you're moving to, you simply move in or out of the lock.

All locks are operated by lock-keepers. Always obey lockkeeper’s instructions.
Engines should always be switched off in locks after securing vessel. 

Special safety tips
• Take your time - and keep an eye out for problems
• Always have a competent person on board while the boat's in the lock
• Keep your boat well away from the gates and sills
• Boats tend to bang about when water flows in and out of a lock - stay alert
• Watch out for slippery surfaces when you're pushing the gates open
• Work out some clear signals so that the crew and skipper can communicate quickly - a sign that means "close all the sluices", for example
Sharing a lock - saving water

Always share a lock if you can. And, if the lock's set against you, check for boats coming from the other direction. The lock will be ready for them to use and it'll save unnecessary emptying and filling.

It's usually possible to get two or three boats in a lock, but check that you all have enough room to avoid the sill and gates. The heavier boat should always go in first, so that the water flow doesn't pull it into the lighter boats.

Special safety tips
• Take your time - and keep an eye out for problems
• Always have a competent person on board while the boat's in the lock
• Keep your boat well away from the gates and sills
• Boats tend to bang about when water flows in and out of a lock - stay alert
• Watch out for slippery surfaces when you're pushing the gates open
• Work out some clear signals so that the crew and skipper can communicate quickly - a sign that means "close all the sluices", for example
Sharing a lock - saving water

Always share a lock if you can. And, if the lock's set against you, check for boats coming from the other direction. The lock will be ready for them to use and it'll save unnecessary emptying and filling.

It's usually possible to get two or three boats in a lock, but check that you all have enough room to avoid the sill and gates. The heavier boat should always go in first, so that the water flow doesn't pull it into the lighter boats. 

Floating freely?

As the water level rises or falls, keep a continual check on your boat.










• Is your rudder caught on the sill?
Ask the lockkeeper to close the bottom gate paddles to stop the water falling further. Slowly open the top gate paddles to refill the lock. Check for damage
• Is the bow of your boat caught on the top gate?
Ask the lockkeeper to close the top gate paddles to stop the lock filling and open the bottom gate paddles to allow the water level to fall.
• Is the side of your boat caught against the lock wall?
Ask the lockkeeper to refill the lock and check for damage.
• Are your ropes snarled or too tight to let your boat move down freely?
Slacken them off if you can. If not, ask the lockkeeper to refill the lock.
• If you're sharing the lock with another boat, is there a safe distance between you?
Use ropes looped round the bollards to keep you in position

If someone falls into the lock, act quickly. If there's no lock-keeper to take charge:
• Throw a lifeline or lifebuoy
• Stop all engines and keep the boat still
• Summon assistance
Manned locks
All locks on the Lower Bann are manned locks, operated by a lock-keeper. Always follow the lock-keeper's instructions.
On entering the chamber, switch your engine off in the lock and use ropes to control your boat.
Use your fenders to stop your boat getting caught on the safety chains that run alongside the lock. 

TBC