Safety starts with a sound and watertight hull. Through hull fittings of good quality and easily accessible, a good functioning stern gland for the prop shaft is most important. All through hull fittings should have a wooden plug attached just in case a hose tears off or even the valve itself gets smashed. On a regular basis the yacht will come out of the water for cleaning and anti-fouling. This is the time to inspect the fittings and grease the valves to make sure they are moveable.
One needs on deck as well as below decks well placed and sturdy handholds for moving in and out of the cockpit, along the deck and inside the cabin. Guardrails that are well above knee level, the racing height of 60 cm is way too low 70 cm height is much more secure. Jack lines to be fitted as much inboard as possible to keep the crew on board and inside the guardrails when the going gets tough. Short harness lines need to be standard since a single-hander on a long leash being dragged by his or her own yacht through the water will not be able to get back on board.
Inside the yacht one needs drawers and doors locked against a sudden side impact of a wave. The galley stove needs good pan supports which do not always come with the commercially available stoves.
Protection is another important point. The more the crew is protected from cold and salty spray the better. A spray hood only covering the entrance hatch is not good enough. At least the forward position in the cockpit should be protected against spray from the bow. Cockpit coamings should be high enough to prevent water flushing onto the cockpit seats. Sailing downwind in driving rain is particularly testing to morale and an effective closure that keeps the cockpit at least partly dry is preferable over closing the entrance to the main cabin with washboards.
A semi-permanent and rigid spray-hood which gives a good handhold when going out on deck. A zip-on cover between spray-hood and aft bimini gives extra protection.
Protection in the cockpit against the sun’s UV when sailing, in the shape of a bimini or enlarged doghouse, makes life enjoyable. Needless to suggest that such a bimini should be rolled up when the going gets really tough.
Mosquito screens fixed to opening ports and certainly over the entrance hatch help to keep mosquitoes and other flying pests at bay. But there is always one that manages to get through so have an insecticide spray at hand if an undisturbed sleep is required.
Less visible but a nevertheless important aspect is accessibility of internal parts such as through hull fittings, the stern gland and speedometer and the engine for maintenance and repair purposes. Not to mention the batteries which in case of wet-cells need regular topping up and ventilation.
Everything that can go wrong on a yacht will go wrong and should be easily accessible. Always think: what if….