Our Offices worldwide

* Pantaenius UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Authorised No.308688)

Welcome to our personal area
  • Download your policies
  • Find your invoices and amounts to pay
  • Check and change your personal details
This service is currently not available. Please try again later.
Cruising | Aboard

The first time on a boat ‒ A little 101 for skippers and guests

Pantaenius sees many personal injuries that could easily have been avoided ‒ because it is often a lack of experience with boats that leads to injuries. A short guide for skippers and guests.


Already the very first step aboard usually is a strange experience for guests. Unlike any other footpath, the object you set foot on is moving. Moreover, the swaying boat is usually a large stride away from the jetty. For the inexperienced, the first step aboard therefore often feels like a combination of a balancing act and doing the splits. The same can be said of the gangway ‒ it may give the illusion of a stable walkway, but in reality it moves with the boat it lies on.

A skipper who understands the situation and can briefly explain which parts of the boat are moving and where guests can safely hold on is a great help. Usually there is a bow or a stern pulpit within reach. On sailboats, the forestay or backstay can provide additional support. To bring the boat closer, you can step on the mooring lines. But be careful: eventually the ropes on the opposite side of the boat will tighten and the boat will pull back again. If this happens, do not try to jump on board at the last second, but wait for the boat to swing forward again.


The number one safety rule on board is: one hand for the boat, one hand for yourself. You work with one hand and secure yourself with the other ‒ although this is not always to be taken literally, as you often need either both hands to secure yourself or both hands to work. The rule is rather a reminder to always pay attention to your own safety, by having a firm foothold, for example, and a handrail within reach. By the way, it is usually useless and dangerous to try to keep boats at a distance with your hands. It is better to risk a scratch to the boat than an injury to a person!

Another factor for safety is to dress appropriately. It is not safe to stand on board in high heels or flip-flops. Clothing that is too loose can get caught in the running rigging. Caps or sun hats, on the other hand, are a must, providing much-needed protection from UV rays, which are amplified on the water. Waterproof and insulating clothing will keep you warm and dry. All in all, clothing that you would also wear during sports is suitable for the beginning or as a guest. And just as for sports, long hair should be tied in a braid or a bun.


Every boat inevitably displaces water, meaning it creates waves as it sails. These waves travel long distances. Anyone who has been on the coast knows this. These waves, called swells, affect not only the shore but also other boats. They make boats sway and can cause passengers to lose their balance. It is difficult for inexperienced guests to anticipate swells and their effects because they can occur with a long delay.

Skippers with sea legs tend to react quickly to swell, compensating for the boat's movements almost unconsciously. It is helpful for guests or beginners if skippers warn them in advance of expected swells. With some initial help, over time guests will learn to anticipate the effects themselves. It is also important to make guests who are below deck aware of the expected swell.


Sailboats are unfamiliar for guests or beginners in more than one way: not only is it new for them to move on the water, but being propelled by the wind presents a whole new set of challenges. For example, the boom, to which the lower edge of the mainsail is attached, is essential for sailing ‒ but also a safety hazard. It is usually at about head height and can cause head injuries or even throw people overboard. Guests in the cockpit, i.e. within reach of the boom, should therefore sit rather than stand and keep an eye on the boom when giving commands to tack or gybe, ducking their heads if necessary.

Since sailboats cannot sail directly against the wind, they have to zigzag towards downwind targets. While doing so, the boat and the boom move from one side to the other each time. The corresponding manoeuvre is announced with the command "Ready to tack", which means for guests: The boom is about to come and the boat will tilt to the other side. The same applies to the command "Ready to jibe", after which the boom also will move to the other side. Experienced crews sometimes dispense with commands or shorten them. With guests or beginners on board, however, clear commands are essential.


The forces that are at work on sailboats are just as difficult for the guest to assess as are their effects. A twelve metre sailing boat can weigh ten tonnes when fully rigged. This means that ten tonnes are being moved by the forces acting on the sails alone, which are controlled by the corresponding sheet ropes. It is therefore reasonable for guests to assume that there are greater forces acting on each line on board than they can handle without help or special equipment. The skipper can explain if there are any exceptions.

On deck of a sailboat, these forces occur at winches, lever clamps, cleats and blocks, among others. If a part of the body gets caught between a line under load and, for example, a winch or cleat, severe abrasions and bruises can be the result. It is the skipper's responsibility to instruct guests and beginners in the use of the equipment. Likewise, It is also advisable for guests and beginners to not use any equipment without proper instruction and guidance from the skipper.


  • One hand for the boat, one hand for yourself
  • Never stop a boat by hand
  • Wear appropriate, athletic clothing
  • On sailing boats keep an eye on the boom
  • Wait for instructions on equipment


Aft: The word used on board for behind.

Backstay: Device - usually made of wire rope - that supports the mast at the stern.

Port side: The left side of a boat in the direction of travel. When standing with the back to the bow, the right arm still points to the port side

Boom: Horizontal device, today usually an aluminium profile, for fastening the lower edge of the mainsail

Block: Pulley for all kinds of ropes

Bow: The front tip of a boat

Cockpit: Helm station of a boat

Halyard: Line used to set a sail

Jibe: Manoeuvre in which a sailboat turns with its stern through the wind

Lever clamp: device for locking ropes, usually halyards

Stern: The aft end of a boat

Cleat: A fitting with two horns for attaching ropes such as mooring lines

Heel: In sailboats, the leaning position when sailing close reach to the wind.

Mast: Vertical device, today usually an aluminium profile, for attaching the leading edge of the mainsail.

Sheet: Line with which a set sail is operated.

Swell: Waves running out of the actual area of origin.

Starboard: Right side of a boat in the direction of travel

Forestay: Device - usually made of wire rope - that supports the mast at the bow

Shrouds: Devices that support the mast from the side

Tack: Manoeuvre in which a sailboat turns with its bow through the wind

Winch: Fitting for pulling ropes such as sheets and halyards


PANTAENIUS - a reliable partner
How important to you is certainty and peace of mind?
Over 50

of experience guarantee an exclusive service approach and the most efficient claims management when you need it most.


already place their trust in us and make Pantaenius the leading yacht insurance provider in Europe.


in our network help us deliver true local service and support you with advice and expertise all over the world.