The Boat Safety Scheme recommend that all privately owned boats should carry at least one lifebuoy. The ring or horseshoe shaped buoy should be in a position where it is immediately accessible in the case of an emergency. This preferably means on the stern near to the steering position so that even if the boat is crewed single-handed the device can be safely deployed. A lifebuoy is all but useless on the bow of a long boat if no one can reach it.
The RNLI recommend that lifebuoys should have a minimum buoyancy of 50N (see our section on lifejackets for the explanation of buoyancy). A diameter of 45cm to 61cm is recommended for safe use.
It is not essential to connect your lifebuoy to a line, but if you do so the line should be of the buoyant, non-sinking type. The attachment of a line also aids in recovery of the casualty or for rapid re-deployment of the device in the event of a mis-throw! A minimum of 5 tonne breaking strain is also advisable.
On the subject of throwing, if you do have to deploy a lifebuoy, always shout to the casualty to expect the incoming device. There has been a case where a casualty was knocked unconscious by an incoming buoy which really defeated the object of deployment.
It may seem over the top to be talking about the diameter of the buoy and braking strain of lines but we need to be thinking about worse case scenarios. There really is no price on the preservation of a life.
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