Safety Onboard

The things we do to stay safe at sea.

“If anything is going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.”
-Captain Ron


Life vests, tethers, life sling…prior to heading offshore we took a lot of precautions regarding safety; in particular Vivienne and the dogs.  One of the most commonly asked questions we received prior to moving aboard was how we were going to keep everyone onboard (namely, Vivienne) safe while we were sailing.  There are so many ways!

  1. Life vests
    1. Vivienne has a child’s vest with a pillow on it so if she would fall in the water, even walking down the dock, her head would float face up no matter what. While she has a secondary vest that doesn’t have a pillow we don’t really use that one, and of course we have two back up orange preservers just in case.   So, technically, Vivienne has FOUR life jackets.
    2. We have automatically inflating life vests for the adults. Simply, they are not puffy all the time but only if we fall in the water.  There is a pressure point in the vest that needs two things in order to inflate: wetness and water pressure; meaning if we splash it with water it won’t automatically inflate like some of the vests on the market that have a dissolving pill that inflates them.  The image below is the exact type of auto inflate life jacket we have.
    3. Missi and Kai have their own life vests from Outward Hound that are bright orange. Missi wears a medium but poor Kai is so chesty she has to wear an XL which is almost too long for her!  We might downgrade her to a large because it seems to be just a little too big and we could probably make the large work for her.
  2. We also carry and abundance of excess orange USCG vests (8) just in case.

life jacket

Missi, sporting her Outward Hound life vest.


  1. Tethers
    1. Vivienne has a child harness and tether, which we can connect to the lifelines on the boat so, should she fall over, she will still be attached to the boat and won’t get too far from us. It fits underneath her life jacket.  If you saw the video of her “tire swing” on facebook that is where we fitted her with her harness and tether and then TJ used it as a swing for her.
    2. Adults have tethers, too. Our tethers don’t come with a harness, but clip onto a D-ring on the front of our life vests.
    3. Dogs don’t have tethers so we just very carefully watch them, however they don’t really venture much beyond the cockpit while underway at this point in time.

safety tethers

  1. Lifesling
    1. Remember the old-school life rings that used to hang on life guard chairs at pools and somewhere on a boat? Well, this is an updated version of that.  It is bright yellow and looks more like a “U” than an “O”.  It is attached to a long tether so it can be thrown over the side and out to a person who may have fallen overboard.


  1. EPIRB
    1. Emergency Position Indicating Radiobeacon. This nifty device fits snugly in a Pelican (watertight) case that is only to be opened in emergencies.  If we were to be in distress we would pull out the pelican case, open it up, flip a switch on the EPIRB and it would begin sending out our signal to the US Coast Guard; who would also then notify our emergency contact of our situation, as that person will make decisions on our behalf if the USCG can’t reach us. Thanks, Tom, I hope we never need you!


  1. Emergency Distress Kit
    1. This watertight box includes things like a flare gun and flares, handheld signal flares, smoke for smoke signals. Again, something we hope to never use but necessary to have.
  2. Spotlight
    1. Just in case we need to see something at night…
  3. Life Line Netting
    1. Okay, I’ll admit, we slacked on this one. We bought the netting and the hardware to install it but it is a royal pain.  We worked on it and it just wasn’t working well and really created more of a hazard and false sense of security rather than true security.  So, we scrapped putting it up for this trip.  Many cruisers with pets and small children do put netting up and it would be better to have it for the dogs in case they decide to venture forward on the boat. (The image below is definitely not our boat, since we don’t have ours up yet.)

lifeline netting

  1. Extra Adult
    1. Since we weren’t sure how Vivienne and the dogs would do while underway we invited TJ’s dad, Terry, to join us on our passage from Fort Lauderdale to Charleston. It has been a BIG help to have another adult present.  When we first started to get underway Vivienne and the dogs were huddled around me in Vivienne’s cabin until they realized we rock a lot but we are safe.  Terry has primarily been helping with sailing and fishing because I still need to be close to Vivienne while underway.  In fact, I’m typing this on Microsoft Word in the salon while Vivienne watches “Finding Nemo” on my phone.  We woke her up early so she could see us leaving the dock and it should be nap time soon…


Overall we have taken a lot more safety precautions than probably those I’ve listed but that’s all I can think of right now.  We are definitely taking steps to ensure everyone’s safety while onboard and underway because, ultimately, everyone’s arrival safety to our destination is what matters most.


Par la Foi,
The McKelveys

~~All things are possible for those who believe. -Mark 9:23~~

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