Dockwalk - Lifeguard Duty Untitled Page

Lifeguard Duty

Aug 19th 09
By Ofer Shelter [Photo by Dana Jinkins]

On our boat, watersports and swimming are an integral part of a guest’s holiday. Most of our guests are good swimmers, but some are of the “keep-an-eye-out” variety, not to mention children.

Through the years, I’ve learned a few things about how the crew can keep guests safe while they play in the water.

Don’t be afraid to join your guests while they swim. After all, they might enjoy the company. When there are kids on board, jumping in is the best way to keep them entertained and assure their safety without troubling their parents. We even have purchased rash guards so we don’t walk around with a bare chest or wearing a bikini top; some guests don’t feel comfortable with half-naked crew.

If you’re not in the water with the guests, make sure to assign a crewmember to keep watch over them, or at least check on them at regular intervals. As I always believe in training; for yachts with extensive watersports activities I recommend the yacht send a crewmember to get certified as a lifeguard – then they’ve really got it covered.


A few weeks ago, we sailed around Goçek in Turkey with a family on board who had three fearless children. They were in and out of the water constantly, and had no problem jumping, diving and swimming. At one point, I could not be with them in the water. So, for my own peace of mind, I tied a line from both cleats on the stern and made a loop around the transom of the yacht. This created an enclosed area that they were not allowed to leave when they had no parental supervision.


A friend told me he has used the same type of enclosure – but for adults as well children. “It seems,” he says, “that the enclosed area with additional floats tied to the line created a safe zone for the guests, and they felt a lot more comfortable in the water – resulting in a better experience on their vacation.”


In general, whenever we reach an anchorage, I also tie a line from the stern attaching the water toys to the yacht, which makes them easily accessible when needed. But I make a rule – both for the guests’ safety and the crew’s peace of mind – that they call on us whenever they want to use the Jet Skis, so we can assist them. This is also a good way for us to monitor the guests.

There are many factors to consider when engaging in watersports – the guests are not aware of most of them. For instance, there are strong currents in many areas. I know that in some parts of the Exumas, Bahamas, the currents are so strong that holding on to the yacht is sometimes a difficult task.

Before I announce that we have arrived and that play time has begun, I check the conditions around our anchorage. I make sure I know when high and low water will be, whether we are expecting a little shower during the day, what marine animals live in the area and whether there are any navigation obstructions around. Only then can I brief the guests properly and make sure they are aware of any dangers, preparing them for a fun and safe experience in the water.

At the end of the day, the guests’ safety in the water is in our hands because we are the watersports experts on board. Make sure you inform them of the dangers, keep an eye on them, get in and play with their kids in order to guard them as closely as possible and always make sure they put on sunscreen.

Do you have any tips for keeping guests safe in the water?


Related Topics:

Tender Driving 101

Yachting with Tots: The Perils of Charters with Children


Rating  Average 5 out of 5

  • Bridge watch, good point not very practical. How about coming up with a solution. When Offer worked for me, we had designated jump off places, much in the same way a public pool has. Rules were passed on to the guests, there was someone with at least a Red Cross WSI level of experience in attendance whenever there was someone in the water.Our jump places were non skid finished and proper depth was checked. My insurance carrier was okaty with our plan, because we had a risk mitigation plan.
    It can be done, it can be insured the guest can enjoy the exhilaration of jumping through the sky.

    In addition to basic STCW certification, a best practice is to have at least every other crew member go through a thorough water safety course. Most of the advanced scuba program include this training. The REd Cross Water Safety Instructor course is cheap, easy and available throughout the world. There are alot of crew looking for work right now with lots of time on their hands. Find a WSI course being offer near you and sign up. You will only be bettered by the experience.
    Posted by Herb_1 22/08/2009 18:52:29

  • It looks like they're jumping off the main deck to me, not an upper deck.
    Great idea about the enclosure with floats attached.
    Posted by Stew Rose 19/08/2009 21:51:56

  • Nice article, Ofer. I was just thinking about you the other day too... Good on you for making the recommendation that yachts with extensive water sports activities should have a crew member certified as a lifeguard. Coincidentally, SPORTAble Crew interviewed a deckhand today w/ Surf Life Saving Australia credentials & emphasized that very point before reading your article. Keep up the good work & keep in touch. /SPORTA
    Posted by SPORTA 19/08/2009 21:30:03

  • Bad photo to use for a safety article. No yacht P&I liability policy that I have read would allow for crew or guests to be jumping off of the yacht on upper decks. It is truly a very poor example of safety onboard and a poor example of what is supposed to be showing an example of good professional practices onboard. Best to change the photo.
    Posted by bridgewatch 19/08/2009 20:17:39

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