If you think that buying a boat is a good idea, think twice. The ocean is no place for you. And it has nothing to do with your safety at sea. At least not in the way you would imagine.
Firstly, the ocean is not such a dangerous place as you would expect. The recent capsizing of Miroshga near Houtbay comes to mind. Two people lost their lives in a tragic accident and everyone wonders how dangerous sailing really is. The statistics don't lie and it will surprise you without doubt. Statistically sailing is as dangerous as, wait for it..it's as dangerous as playing golf. Surprised? I was too. If you look at injuries or deaths per 100 000 participants then sailing has as many casualties and injuries as the sport of playing golf. It is 5 times safer than playing netball, and 12 times safer than playing rugby. The only reason why the Miroshga disaster made so much news is because something like this almost never happens!
So why then would I tell you to reconsider buying that boat? Well, SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) will make it impossible for you to ever sail your vessel. The government, in their infinite wisdom, has assigned them the contract to keep our sailors safe. It has also given them carte blanche to think up any bit of regulation they desire, and they (SAMSA) has made every effort to profit royally from this liberty. Any rule that SAMSA conjures up immediately becomes law.
So how bad is this regulation? Let's say you want to cross an ocean with your boat. Firstly your vessel needs a certificate of fitness, registration, inspections and loads of very expensive safety equipment. This will easily set you back around R100K if you include installation cost. Deduct one year off your life if you have the cash and time on your hands. 5 years down the line and I'm still not there. Then you need some personal registrations, a first-aid course, A VHF Marine Radio Operator's License, an eye test, a certificate of competence and 2,500 nautical miles of sailing. The 2,500 nautical miles is about 160 times the distance from Cape Town to Hout bay. The certificate of competence will set you back anything from R80K upwards over a period of 4 months of intensive training with theory, exams and practical. Can you take 4 months off to do a quick course? Neither can I. All in all I don't see how it could cost you less than R200K and several years of sweat in order to comply with SAMSA requirements, and I'm not mentioning the money you lost while taking time off work to get all this in place.
How does this regulation compare to the rest of the world? In most countries you buy a boat, get a radio operators license, and start sailing less than a week later. A few countries require a very basic certificate of competence. A mere drop in the ocean compared to the mammoth regulation that SAMSA has slapped on leisure sailors in South Africa. What can we do about it? Nothing. Our very own sailing magazine is loaded with sailors (and the editor) complaining vigorously about the burden, to no avail. The best advice I can give you is to reconsider buying that boat.
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