Lifebuoys are another essential in the narrow boaters’ safety kit. All narrowboats should carry a life ring as well as a throw bag that can be used in an emergency situation.

Life ring secured to the stern of a narrow boat
A throw bad should be an essential part of your narrowboat safety kit
A life ring can be used in an emergency situation on a narrow boat

Life Rings / Buoys… What Do You Need To Know?

The Boat Safety Scheme recommend that all privately owned narrowboats 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 narrow boat is crewed single-handed the device can be safely deployed. A lifebuoy is all but useless on the bow of a long narrow 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.

Throw Lines / Bags

Not a mandatory safety device, just a good one. Throw lines can be purchased from well stocked chandlers, safety equipment suppliers and on-line resources.

Versions are available that either clip to your belt or for fixing in an appropriate location in your narrow boat.

They consist of a coil of high visibility floating rope contained in a bag, with a loop attached to it.

To deploy, you put your hand through the loop hold on to it and throw the bag at the person who need rescuing.

They are a compact addition to a life ring system and due to their portable nature can be especially useful for those walking on the bank or working around locks who may need to assist another crew member but cannot reach the on-board systems.

Prices start from around £20 for a 12m model.

Life Rings / Buoys

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