When thinking about a sailing holiday, people have visions of lazy days on deck, the smell of the sea, snorkeling adventures and private beach excursions. It’s also important to consider the ways you can avoid harmful interactions with your sailing environment so you can ensure you’re sailing safely.
Enaviga cares about passenger safety as well as the safety and integrity of the many plants, animals and landforms you’ll encounter on your sailing holiday. Nothing ruins a trip faster than an injury or illness, so we’ve compiled a list of three areas to watch when it comes to sailing safely as you interact with your sea environment on your sailing holiday.
Sailing Safely with Animals and Sea Creatures
Seeing ocean wildlife is a highlight of any sailing excursion. But there’s a difference between watching dophins swim beside your sailboat and wanting to free dive with sharks. Remember, this is their environment – you’re the visitor. And as cute and cuddly as that baby seal looks, mama is nearby and will come charging to the rescue if she feels threatened.
There are also a number of smaller sea creatures that can pack a powerful punch. Anemones, jellyfish, electric eels, and puffer fish protect themselves through use of painful toxins. Here are some rules of thumb to live by when you’re living on the water to make sure you’re sailing safely:
- Look, don’t touch. It can be tempting to want to pet a seagull or touch a dolphin. But remember, this is the open ocean, not an aquarium. They’re wild animals, and the only thing you can predict is that they’ll react unpredictably.
- Stay a safe distance from sea creatures. We encourage you to enjoy your trip to the fullest, and sea creature sightings are always a thrill. Bring your camera and your binoculars so you can record the leaping dolphins and playful sea lions. Those memories will be much more enjoyable to relive than memories of an injury.
- Stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Smaller sea creatures can be harder to spot, but that doesn’t mean their defense mechanisms are any less painful.
Sailboat Etiquette. It’s important to keep some safety standards in mind when it comes to your sailboat and marine life as well. Whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals are fun to watch, but it’s important to do so from a position of safety – both for you AND the animal.
A large, agitated sea mammal can cause devastating damage to a sailing yacht – not to mention the chance of injury to humans and themselves. Give them the space and respect they need. Here are some warning signs to watch for. If you see any of these in a sea mammal you’re near, back off and give distance:
- Irregular changes of direction or swim speed
- Quick dives
- Breathing pattern changes
- Tail slashing or “trumpet blows”.
Many countries have specific regulations regarding sea mammal watching standards. Those who don’t abide by them can face steep fines. Check the country you’re visiting for specific regulations.
Sailing Safely with Ocean Plants
If you’ve ever gone snorkeling or scuba diving, you know that the ocean holds a completely different, fascinating world. Bright colors, interesting shapes, and things you’ll never see on land are everywhere you turn. But proceed with caution! Some of the plant and marine life underwater can be hazardous to your health – and vice versa! We’re going to cover a couple of the most common underwater plant life you may come into contact with.
Many coral reefs and some beaches are protected areas. Check the regulations of the country you’re in to avoid still fines against taking shells or coral from an area.
Coral and coral reefs. These unique and colorful marine forms are an amazing feature of the ocean floor. But not only can they cause skin irritation for you if you come into contact with them, but interacting with coral reefs is very harmful to the reef itself.
Coral contains tiny microbes and bacteria, and although it’s interesting shapes seem to beg you to touch them, don’t. Coral is sharp and can slice right through your skin. When bacteria and ocean microbes come into contact with the skin, irritation, even infection, can follow.
In addition to the effect coral has on us, humans have an effect on coral – and it’s not a good one. Human interaction with coral reefs, which actually over only 0.2% of the ocean floor, has proven to be devastating. Scientists estimate that 27% of coral reefs have died off as a direct result of human interaction.
How can you enjoy coral reefs safely? Here are some tips:
- Steer clear. Keep a safe distance from coral when you’re diving or snorkeling.
- Wear a wet suit. The wet suit will help protect your skin should a wave push you up against a reef.
- Bring a first aid kit. If you do get cut by coral, clean out the wound thoroughly, making sure there’s nothing in the wound. Then apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a waterproof bandage.
- Be mindful. Coral is a living entity – or rather a myriad of living entities all coexisting as a unit. Damaging coral can kill of the home of many species of ocean life. Make sure your boat stays a safe distance from reefs so as to avoid striking and breaking coral. Haul out your trash and other refuse.
Algae Blooms. Algae is an integral part of the ocean ecosystem. But when it occurs in too great of quantities in one location, it can prove to be toxic, even deadly, to the humans and animals in the area. When an overgrowth of algae occurs, it can create a dead zone in the water, killing everything in the area and producing extremely dangerous toxins.
- Again, steer clear! Algae blooms are dangerous to come into contact with. Nutrient pollution caused from human activities only makes the problem worse and more frequent. Don’t sail through an algae bloom.
- Rinse off. If you do come into contact with an algae bloom, rinse off immediately with fresh water.
Sailing Safely with Sea Insects
Most “sea bugs” aren’t insects at all, but are actually tiny marine creatures. But things like sea lice (a species of miniscule jellyfish) and sand fleas (microscopic crustaceans) are tiny and their bites itch and burn like an insect’s, so it’s understandable why they’re referred to as bugs.
So how do you stay away from things that may be too small to see?
- Go deeper. Shallow water is the ultimate breeding ground for tiny sea insects.
- Check local reports. Ask around, or check the web for reports of infestations. This “rash” of inquiries can save you a real headache later.
- Avoid stagnant, warm pools. This is the type of environment they love. If you’re in a warm water area, you’re most likely to encounter there creatures here.
- Come prepared. You can’t see these creatures. Come prepared and bring some Benadryl and cortisone cream, just in case you do have a run-in with these pests.
Preparation and caution can be your best friend when it comes to sailing safely. Use these tips to avoid encounters of the dangerous kind so you can fully enjoy your sailing holiday. And don’t forget to check customs when you go back home for any regulations they may have.
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