Download the CIRA Safety Guide


CIRA Safety Guide


  1.     Safety Committee
  2.     Safety Rules
  3.     Emergencies
  4.     Additional Safety Guidelines
  5.     Quick Hitter List of Guidelines






The Safety Committee shall consist of:

  •     A member of the Board of Directors who will serve as chair 
  •     A minimum of one representative from each of the clubs
  •     Other interested members and program representatives by invitation


The Safety Committee shall:

  •     Meet at least twice per year to review safety rules, protocols, and procedures.
  •     Recommend to the CIRA Board of Directors (Board) any rules/guideline
  •     changes as needed.
  •     Consult with coaches regarding implementation, as needed 
  •     Hold a spring and fall seasonal safety meeting with mandatory attendance by coaches.
  •     Failure to adhere to these guidelines is subject to review and loss of privileges




  •       Each rower must take personal responsibility to:  
  • Meet physical conditioning required for the sport of rowing 
  • Awareness of the weather conditions and possible safety hazards.
  •  Reserving boats and using the logbook, signing in and out every row.
  •  Adhering to the Equipment Classification System which indicates the boats each rower is permitted to use according to skill or certification level 
  • Knowing the traffic pattern of the waterway.
  •  Reporting equipment damage: defective or damaged equipment must be reported in writing on the Repair Log, located in the team trailer on the beach. 


  •     Safety Launch Equipment and Operation.  Safety Launches with crews must carry:

o   PFDs  — and emergency blankets in cold conditions — appropriate to the number of rowers 

o   Tool and First Aid kits must be made available in launch or within a boat.  This must include:

  • standard and/or metric wrenches
  • at least 1 adjustable wrench
  •  Pliers
  •  Electrical Tape
  •  First Aid Kit
  •  Lifeline or throw bag
  •  Flashlight and/or Spotlight before sunrise and after sunset
  •  Bailer
  •  Communication device (radio or cell phone)

o   Safety Launches must also have:

  •  A Coast Guard Approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for each person in the launch and each person in a boat not already carrying one.
  •  A throwable rescue device such as an approved floating seat cushion.
  •  Lights if before sunrise or after sundown.
  •  An efficient noise making device (i.e. whistle)
  •  An anchor with at least 50′ of anchor line attached to launch
  •  At least one oar or paddle.
  •  Valid registration stickers.
  •  Safety Launch operation:
  • Coaches and anyone driving a launch should have a current boater safety certificate.
  •  Coaches and launch operators are responsible for accounting for the people and boats on the water at all times; ensuring accountability for launch and return


  •       Who to call​:  DIAL 911
  •       What to Say:  “There has been a boating accident and there are rowers in the water” or “on the beach.”  Note: these require different types of first responders
  •       Also know:


o   Your location – note landmark on Long Pond or other body of water

o   Launch site at Long Pond is Fernandes Bog Harwich Beach, Long Pond Drive

  •       IDENTIFY THE MEANS BY WHICH EMS WILL CONTACT YOU:  marine radio and channel or telephone you will be attending




General Guidelines:

  •       Whatever the issue, i.e. fallen out of the boat, swamped, capsized, broken hull, STAY WITH YOUR BOAT, unless faced with a worse life-threatening danger such as an approach of a thunderstorm or floating in the path of a speeding boat


  •       Respond IMMEDIATELY if given one of these commands:  ALL HOLD (turn oar blades into the perpendicular position in the water to stop the boat) UNDO FOOT STRETCHERS (pull feet free of foot stretchers), and WEIGH ENOUGH (stop rowing)


  •       Alert the launch or another boat using an AIRHORN, WHISTLE or PHONE/MARINE RADIO and wait for its arrival


  •       And/or use other distress signals to communicate to other boats: such as waving your arm, shirt/cloth or oar over head


Person Overboard Guidelines:

  •       Bow/Cox’n gives these commands immediately: WEIGH ENOUGH, ALL HOLD stop the boat
  •       Overboard rower should stay close to the boat
  •       Alert the launch as described above and wait for its arrival
  •       Coach should decide if rower returns to the shell or gets into the launch


Rower Injured Guidelines:

  •       Bow/Cox’n gives these commands immediately: WEIGH ENOUGH, ALL HOLD stop the boat
  •       If first aid is needed, alert the launch as described above and wait for its arrival


Shell Damaged, but Afloat, on the Water Guidelines:

  •       Bow/Cox’n gives these commands immediately: WEIGH ENOUGH, ALL HOLD stop the boat
  •       Make adjustments or signal launch for assistance


Shell Swamped (water in the boat is high as the gunwales) Guidelines:

  •       Bow/Cox’n gives these commands immediately: WEIGH ENOUGH, ALL HOLD stop the boat
  •       Alert the launch as described above and wait for its arrival
  •       The decision whether the crew should get out of the boat will depend on various factors, including water temperature


  •       If the decision is made to get out of the boat:

o   Immediately undo foot stretchers and give help to any having difficulty

o   Unload by pairs from the middle first, then bow and stern pairs.

o   Form a buddy system to better keep track of all rowers


  •       If a rescue is not imminent:

o   Remember that body heat loss occurs 25 times faster in cold water

o   Remove oars or place them parallel to the shell

o   All persons should move to the ends of the shell (it is dangerous to roll a shell near riggers)

o   Roll the boat to form a more stable floatation platform, so rowers can either lie on top of the hull or buddies can hold onto each other across the hull

o   Do not attempt to roll the boat if rescue is on the way

o   Once on shore the shell may be very heavy and must be drained before portage to storage 

If a Single Flips:

  •       Alert the launch as described above and wait for its arrival
  •       Or attempt shell re-entry as practiced and if re-entry cannot occur, swim the boat to shore, lying on the stern, using the shell as a paddleboard
  •       In cold weather, lie on the stern deck of another’s upright shell to be taken to shore


Shell Capsizes, Breaks or Starts to Sink:

  •       Immediately undo foot stretchers and give help to anyone having difficulty
  •       If the boat is afloat, stay with the boat until assistance arrives
  •       Be sure that all rowers and coxswain are accounted for
  •       Follow same procedures as for swamped shell


Another Boat in Distress Guidelines:

  •       Alert the launch as described above and wait for its arrival
  •       If closer, maneuver your boat to the distressed boat
  •       Assist in any way that does not jeopardize the lives in your boat


Launch Approaching Rowers in the Water Guidelines:

  •       The launch should approach rowers in the water from the leeward side, keeping the propeller away from anyone in the water
  •       The engine should be turned off as soon as the launch arrives at site
  •       Avoid overloading the launch


On Water Repairs Guidelines:

  •       Most minor repairs can occur with the cox’n’s on board equipment 
  •       For more serious repairs, alert the launch as described above and wait for its arrival 
  •       Rowers should always stay within hailing distance of the launch by radio or phone 


Best Practices: Good Rowing 

  •       Safety must always be a rowers first priority
  •       Each rower is responsible and accountable for his/her own rigging, foot stretcher position, seat, slide and blade and must check to ensure that all equipment is functioning properly before leaving the dock
  •       Row only in familiar waters
  •       The current weather conditions and the clubs posted traffic patterns must be noted, understood and obeyed 
  •       On the water collisions caused by limited vision or carelessness are always a possibility and require a rower’s constant attention to nearby sights and sounds 
  •       Attached boat lights of some sort are required for rowing in darkness or near darkness
  •       Do not row too close to shore and known hazards
  •       On the water warm-ups are advised prior to all workouts 
  •       All orders or instructions from Coxswains or Coaches should be followed 
  •       All users of club boats must understand and comply with their equipment and property rules
  •       Unlock oarlocks only on command or until the boat has reached the dock/beach
  •       Keep at least one hand on the oar(s) while the boat is on the water
  •       A cool down run is always advised after a strenuous workout
  •       It is best to do some stretching exercises after rowing is completed 


Best Practices: Important Rowing Commands and Terminology to Know


Communicating in a Shell:

  •     The seat assignments as numbered in a shell: bow is always #1 and stroke is 

     highest number in the boat:

  •       BOW and STERN; PORT and STARBOARD

     AND OUT 



Best Practices: Clothing

  •       Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing in rowing shells
  •       At least one person in each boat should wear a bright, neon colored shirt AND 

     carry a phone

  •       In cold weather rowers should wear several layers of flexible, moisture-wicking 


  •       In hot weather rowers should wear a hat, sun protection clothing, dark glasses and 

     bring water 


Best Practices: Coxswains 

  •       The current weather conditions and the clubs posted traffic patterns must be noted,   

     understood and obeyed

  •       On the water collisions caused by limited vision or carelessness are always a 

    possibility and require a cox’n’s constant attention to nearby sights and sounds 

  •       Do not row too close to shore and known hazards
  •       If in doubt, ask a Coach
  •       Any deficiencies or damage to the equipment must be repaired before launching 

     such as:

o   Damage to the hull, steering mechanisms, or structural support sections of the boat

o   Boats must be properly equipped with a bow ball, heel tie-downs and any other safety equipment

  •       Check the oars and rigging:

o   Oars are in their correct positions

o   Nuts on the rigging are tight, the position of the foot stretchers for all rowers are set 

  •       Water bottles, first aid/repair bag, sun glasses, sun screen, extra clothing and hats 

     are on board 


Best Practices: Weather

  •       Always check the weather report before going out
  •       Watch for gathering clouds, changes in wind speed and direction, temperature 

     changes, other boats returning home and debris

  •       If a sudden wind comes up, return to the beach or if conditions are safe, look for the 

     calmest water.  If not safe take the boat to the nearest suitable shore and wait for 

     the wind to die down

  •       Remember the rowers are more valuable than the boat


  •   Do not row in fog, unless your visibility is at least 100 yards. If fog comes up 


o   Be sure to have land reference points on at least one shore

o   Follow the shore back to the boathouse

o   Move slowly and be prepared to stop quickly.

o   Use your sound-making device (horn, whistle) to advise other boats of your location

  •       Lightning: Do not row in an electrical storm. If caught on the water:

o   If you see lightning, hear thunder, or notice your hair standing on end, head for the nearest shore

o   If the storm is not yet upon you, stay close to the shore and quickly return to the boathouse

o   If the storm is upon you, take the boat ashore and seek a low land refuge 

o   Wait 15 minutes or more after hearing thunder before launching boats

  •       Waves are generated by winds, tides, currents or wakes from passing boats.

o   When turning in waves, take particular care to keep the boat level through the turn by rowing at half slide with half of the rowers keeping their oars flat on the water for balance

o   If waves are lower than the gunwale and widely spaced, continue to row without course adjustment

o   If the waves are high and closely spaced but lower than the gunwales, row straight into them 

o   If the waves are higher than the gunwales, turn the boat parallel to them, rowers should stop rowing and lean away from the approaching wake, lifting the gunwales slightly higher than the waves


  Best Practices – Recognizing and Handling Hot and Cold Weather


Hyperthermia occurs when there is an increase in body temperature, usually when the air temperature is above 76 degrees, and the victim is exposed to sun and heat in combination with a decrease in fluids. It may occur when sweat cannot easily evaporate; the body is being heated by the environment; or water loss from sweat and respiration is not replaced and dehydration occurs. Two serious conditions may result:


  • Heat exhaustion; signs are throbbing headache, nausea, cool skin, chills, sweaty, and pale pulse. Action; drink water, shade from sun, and treat for shock.
  • Heat Stroke is life threatening; signs are behavior changes, unconsciousness, hot but not sweaty, flushed warm skin and rapid pulse. Action- douse with cool water, shade from sun, fan, ensure the airway is open, get medical assistance as soon as possible.


To avoid these problems in hot and humid weather:

  • Maintain a high fluid level. Drink water before leaving the dock and frequently while on the water. Take an individual water bottle for easy access.
  • Avoid sunburn by using sunscreen and wear a hat or visor to keep the sun off the face and out of the eyes.
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Remain in the shade when off the water.
  • Plan activity level consistent with the degree of heat and humidity.


Hypothermia occurs when a victim is subject to cold temperatures, cold water, ice or snow. There is potential danger for hypothermia when the water temperature is below 80 degrees and very dangerous when the water temperature is below 50 degrees.

  • Hypothermia can occur without the victim being in the water, rowing in extremely cold weather can cause symptoms.   
  • Symptoms include feeling cold, turn bluish and shivering, and followed by numbness, apathy, lethargy, disorientation and loss of mental capacity.
  • When air is below 40 degrees and /or water below 50 degrees, keep launch within 100 yards of all shells.
  • NOTE: Make sure the coxswain is warm but safe. They are not moving. Many layers are not safe, if the boat flips they can drown. Mustang Survival suits are a better warming option.
  • What to do if cold and shivering: Get out of the water quickly, even on top of the capsized boat. Heat loss is 25 times greater when in the water.






It’s our goal to ensure sound rowing procedures for all.  The following is a quick “checklist” of guidelines and procedures critical for daily operations, to eliminate incidents and best respond to any emergencies that arise.  All rowers and coaches are expected to know what to do in the event of an emergency. If you have questions, please ask your coach or any of the CIRA board directors. We have created a safety committee that will help respond to any needs or situations in question. 


  •       Phones always ON set to highest audio setting and VIBRATE
  •       If emergency CALL 911
  •       Every boat must have a cell phone to communicate situations to coaches and/or 


  •     If non-life-threatening: communicate with other coaches on the water.
  •     For capsized boats: Rowers on launch first. PFDs on. Tie/anchor line to a boat that’s   been evacuated.
  •     Launch and PFDs must be used if air temp is less than 40 degrees, or water less than       50 degrees 
  •     Paddles, PFDs, emergency blankets (in cold weather), first aid kits, and anchor or line must be in launches at all times
  •     Severe lightning/storm (no time to get to beach/dock): Get out of launch and get underneath if safe to do so 


  •       No single rowers permitted at any time.  We must observe the Buddy System: a minimum of TWO people to be out at once to look out for one another. 


  •       You must have been pre-approved to go out without a launch (i.e., proved you are an experienced rower for specific boats and have confirmed you are a competent, comfortable swimmer). 


  •       PFDs must be used in cold weather (as noted above)


  •       Please wear bright fluorescent apparel for visibility


  •       Each boat must have one cell phone with member/launch numbers in contact list 
  •       You MUST sign in and out of the logbook EVERYTIME you go out for a row.  We want to be sure we know who is out on the water at all times, in case we have to find you!


  •       Always observe the traffic pattern, posted in the trailer:

o   Counter-clockwise around perimeter on Long Pond

o   Avoiding rowing down the middle or across the Pond, whenever possible (except to row to other side)


  •       If you are a spare in a launch, your responsibility is to keep an eye out in front for potential debris/danger


  •       If weather becomes stormy:  if lightning, row to shore, pull outside oars in, beach boat and seek shelter.  Weather patterns can change quickly: please be aware of conditions. 


  •       No rowers are permitted to row in dark (early mornings or evenings)


  •       Report ALL issues regarding equipment/boat maintenance to coaches.


  •       Please leave the beach as we’ve found it! Be sure all equipment, personal belongings and debris have been stored and disposed of in a manner that is appropriate.