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As boaters around the coast are getting ready to launch for the first time this year, the RNLI is reminding anyone going afloat to make sure they’re safe this boating season. After the long cold winter, the charity that saves lives at sea is asking boaters to give their craft, engines and safety equipment a thorough inspection before their maiden voyage of 2010.

Every spring, the number of RNLI lifeboat launches rises as boaters throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland slip their moorings and head out on the water after the winter lay up. From February to March last year, the number of lifeboats launched to pleasure craft almost doubled, from 96 to 183 launches, and that number leapt again to 383 in April as more people took to the water. Over 190 people were rescued during the Easter weekend alone (11 – 14 April 2009).

Peter Chennell, RNLI Sea Safety Manager, says: ‘Last year over half of RNLI lifeboat launches were to pleasure craft and we’re asking boaters to follow our safety advice so they don’t become one of the statistics.

‘Breaking down out on the water can be a stressful experience and, at best, ruin your day, so don’t forget to check your boat, service the engine and carry spares. But accidents can happen to anyone, no matter how experienced, so make sure you have a means of calling for help and ensure your lifejacket and its gas bottles are in good condition.’

The RNLI offers a range of sea safety advice for anyone planning to go afloat, from tips on engine maintenance to everything you need to know about lifejackets. The charity’s sea safety booklet, Sea Safety: The Complete Guide is regularly updated and can be viewed at www.rnli.org.uk/complete_guide. Visit the site around Easter to get the latest safety tips and advice for the start of the season.

For boaters who want to talk to someone face to face, the RNLI offers personalised sea safety advice in the form of a SEA Check. It is a completely free, friendly and confidential service conducted by one of the charity’s highly trained volunteers. Neither a test nor an inspection, there is no pass or fail, and instead a SEA Check is a personal safety advice service that takes place on board a boater’s own craft. Whether new to the sport, or more experienced, a SEA Check gives boaters an opportunity to ask any niggling questions on equipment or emergency procedures.

Peter continues: ‘Fundamentally, the aim of RNLI SEA Check is to save lives by getting people to recognise the risks involved in going afloat and take responsibility for their own safety. We believe that “prevention is better than cure” and we want to make sure that everyone gets the right advice. So the whole service, even the phone call to book a SEA Check, is free.’