Safety Points

for sailing events organised by Natuurlijk Varen


  1. Own responsiblity
  2. Safety – the boat
  3. Saftey – the crew
  4. Sailing
  5. Further mandatory equipment

 1. Own responsibility

Participation in the Dorestad raid (or other events organized by Natuurlijk Varen) is always entirely at your own risk. Natuurlijk Varen can never be held liable in this respect. Please also see the Terms and Conditions as published on the website.

Skippers are responsible for crew and their boat. The crew must have sufficient sailing skills, also on larger and/or more exposed inland waterways.

Of course, the boat must be equipped for the raid. Certain requirements are imposed on a raid boat with regard to:

  • secondary propulsion by means of muscle strength (rowing, paddling, poling, towing),
  • lowering of the mast to pass under low bridges (air draft),
  • draft (centreboard, dagger board),
  • buoyancy, etc.

If you are unsure whether your boat is suitable for participation, please contact Natuurlijk Varen beforehand to avoid problems during the raid!

The Dorestad raid is organized without rescue boats. There are usually a few boats with an engine, but these may be far ahead or behind you!

Telephone contact is often difficult in rough circumstances. Most of us have the mobile phone in a waterproof container and may not always be able to respond to a call directly.

Please realize that the trip can also take place in weather conditions in which you would not normally go out. The raid is a challenge that can bring you a lot of satisfaction (and good war stories!), but please remain aware of the possible limitations of crew and the boat.

This document applies to the Dorestad raid and all other sailing events organized by Natuurlijk Varen.

 2. Safety – the boat

  • Buoyancy. Suppose that your boat capsizes or fills with water. Does your boat in that case have sufficient buoyancy? In case your boat does not have sufficient built-in buoyancy tanks, use buoyancy bags and secure them as low as possible in the boat, ensuring that the top of the centerboard of dagger board case stays above the water. Attach the buoyancy bags very accurately and firmly to prevent them from getting loose when the boat is full of water. See also the film about the ‘Kenterdag’ (dutch spoken).
  • Centerboard or dagger board. If your boat has been fitted with a centerboard or dagger board, please make sure that the board cannot disappear into its case when the boat turtles (i.e. becomes fully inverted with the mast pointing down). In a boat equipped with a centerboard it might be an idea to attach a piece of rope through a hole drilled in the bottom of the centerboard so that you can pull the centerboard out of the case once the boat has turned turtle. With a dagger board, a piece of elastic band that pulls the dagger board forward may hold the dagger board in its position in the case. Be aware that without the board protruding from the underside of the boat, the boat will be much harder to right. A hollow watertight mast will help to prevent the boat going turtle.
  • Have a sturdy bucket onboard that is secured to the boat with a long piece of line so you can easily bail the boat. Ensure that there is a second means of bailing the boat (bailer, second bucket, pump, etc.) available. It is convenient to belay/tie the bucket to something sturdy on the back of the boat so that you can put it overboard to use it as a brake if necessary.
  • Anchor. An important safety device, especially on larger and/or running water. Keep the anchor, if reasonably possible, ready for use, that is to say with the anchor line attached to the boat. Use the mast or another solid part of the boat for this; a little cleat will break easily and/or screws may be pulled out. Only tie the anchor to the mast if the mast is firmly held in place and cannot be pulled out easily. Make sure that the anchor line is readily coiled for use, for example attached the boat with a piece of velcro which can be loosened in one quick movement. You do not really want any kinks and twists in the anchor line in stress situations! Of course, all parts making up your anchoring set-up (i.e. anchor, line and/or chain) must be complimentary to each other.
  • Secondary propulsion. It is useful to have a paddle and/or the oars ready for use. Make sure that paddles and/or oars are tied to the boat (especially when there is more wind), so that you do not lose them in case of a capsize.
  • Tow rope. Make sure you have a floating tow rope on board with a length of at least 15-20 meters. A striking color is recommended here.
  • Make sure the boat is well prepared for reefing. With a lot of wind and waves it is not convenient if the reef system still needs to be made in order on the water. A reef is easier tied in when the boat is still ashore, so do that before departure. It is then easily taken out again if it is no longer needed.
  • Securing shackles. At the most inconvenient moments, shackles rattle loose. Therefore, secure all the shackles that do not need to be opened regularly with a tie-wrap. Also ensure that your rudder and tiller are secured.
  • Fire extinguisher. Mandatory for boats with an engine.

 3. Safety – the crew

  • Buoyancy aids/ lifejackets. Always wear one in rough weather, when you wear a rain suit and/or boots, on deep water and in locks. Be aware of the pros and cons of a buoyancy aid and a life jacket. A buoyancy aid allows a higher freedom of movement and is more convenient when swimming, righting the boat and getting back on board. A life jacket, and certainly the inflation type life jackets, are very good if you hit the water unconsciously; the vest will then turn you on the back keeping your face above water. However, righting the boat and climbing back in it is much more difficult and may even be impossible. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of both types when choosing a buoyancy aid or life jacket. Make sure a whistle is attached to your buoyancy aid or life jacket allowing you to attract attention if needed. Always wear the buoyancy aid or life jacket over your clothing!
  • Your boat may capsize and you need to be prepared for it. Know how to right your boat again and practice it during a beautiful summer’s day. You will then find out in time and in controlled circumstances whether your boat and you are ready for it. Make sure everything is tied securely to the boat so you do not lose things anything if a capsize would happen. Test if you can climb on board again easily. A swimming ladder, rope loop, rope ladder, or perhaps a little step on the rudder on larger boats may prove to be necessary. You do not want to find this out too late! See also the experiences gained on the “Capsizing day”, organized in 2015 by participants of Natuurlijk Varen. A video of this event you can fine here:
  • Perhaps obvious, but make sure that you wear boat shoes having good grip on a wet slippery boat. Boots may be useful in foul weather conditions.
  • Rain gear.
  • Spare clothing. Make sure to keep it in a watertight container or bag, preferably in a separate plastic bag so you can be sure that they really stay dry.
  • First aid kit.
  • Emergency blanket (heat reflective space blanket). Make sure you have an emergency blanket on board for every crew member. An emergency blanket holds the heat and can help prevent hypothermia. They occupy very little space and are cheap. The first aid kit and emergency blanket should be stored in a waterproof container/bag.

4. Sailing

  • Order and tidiness. Everything on board has a fixed place so that you can quickly find what you need.
  • Lowering the mast. We regularly have to lower the mast for low fixed bridges. Maximum air draft is 1.20 meters. Make it as easy as possible for yourself and make sure that shackles and the like cannot fall overboard. A pelican hook for your forestay is very handy, but secure it with a ring or otherwise!
  • Everything secured to the boat!! Watertight containers, oars, paddles, floor boards, bailers, clothing bags, etc., in short tie everything needs to be secured to the boat (if you accidentally capsize, you do not have time to save all the floating stuff!).
  • Secondary propulsion. We love sailing but not always is there (enough) wind or a canal may be too narrow for tacking up it . Therefore, you must provide for means of secondary propulsion of the boat, of course driven by muscle strength (after all, this is an event organized by Natuurlijk Varen!). Oars are good for longer distances. A paddle is often much more convenient in narrow spaces and quicker put to use. Larger and heavier boats benefit from a punting pole and a sculling notch can also serve one well.
  • Make your crew as familiar with your boat as you are. In principle, the crew also has to be able to sail the boat to a safe place in case the skipper is out of action.
  • Cool? You can always be cool afterwards. Do not be ashamed and find a safe place and get out of a shower/squall if it becomes too much for you (or your crew). Better safe than sorry. When arriving late on the sleeping barge, they save something for you! On a river a place between the cribs is almost always safe. An SMS to the organization is useful.
  • Eyes. You also need to have them in back of your head. Regularly look around for other boats and check for changes in the weather so that you are constantly aware of your surroundings.
  • Good seamanship. Consider the other participants when making your maneuvers. Do not race, by way of example, all at once in/out of a lock. Of course we have to assist each other when there are boats or crew in danger.
  • Boating rules. You must comply with the boating rules applicable on the waters where we are sailing.
  • Commercial shipping. Take particular account of commercial shipping and give it priority at all times. Stay out of the blind spot of an inland waterway transport vessel and give it ample space. Do not make any maneuvers in short distance of such upcoming commercial vessel (short means a few hundred meters!). These commercial vessels usually go a lot faster than you think (16-20 km/hour on stagnant water) and they need a lot of space for maneuvering (they do not need to do that for you!).

 5. Further mandatory equipment

  • Provide for sufficient fenders on board (at least 2, but preferably 1 or 2 more).
  • Docking lines. 2-4 docking lines of sufficient length to be able to moor the boat on the quay, other boats, in locks, etc.
  • Fog horn. To attract attention or to make your presence known.
  • Food and (hot) drinks.
  • Spare equipment/materials/tools. Provide for some spare lines, shackles, blocks, tools, tape, epoxy etc. to solve problems during the raid. If you do not need it, then maybe another participant!
  • Waterways map.