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Pleasure vessels are vessels used for sport or recreational purposes and do not operate for financial gain. However, attending crew may make a reasonable contribution towards the running costs of the voyage on non-commercial vessels, including fuel, mooring costs, bed and board, event entry fees etc.
According to Merchant Shipping (Vessels in Commercial Use for Sport or Pleasure) 1998 (SI 1998/2771), a pleasure vessel is defined as:
(aa) in the case of a vessel wholly owned by an individual or individuals, used only for the sport or pleasure of the owner or the immediate family or friends of the owner; or
(bb) in the case of a vessel owned by a body corporate, used only for sport or pleasure and on which the persons on board are employees or officers of the body corporate, or their immediate family or friends; and
on a voyage or excursion which is one for which the owner does not receive money for or in connection with operating the vessel or carrying any person, other than as a contribution to the direct expenses of the operation of the vessel incurred during the voyage or excursion”
Boats charging more than a reasonable contribution towards the running costs of a voyage are classed as commercial craft and must be compliant with the relevant Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) "Code of Practice". Refer to MCA “Small Vessels in Commercial Use for Sport or Pleasure, Workboats and Pilot Boats – Alternative Construction Standards” MGN 280 (M) for details of the regulations.
Whether the boat is pleasure or commercial It is strongly recommended that these best practice guidelines are followed at all times:
• Get Trained – It is sensible to undertake some form of training; if you do get trained you will be far less likely to be involved in a maritime incident. If you get into difficulty you will also know how to get the right help quickly, reducing the impact of your problem;
• Check the weather and tides – Always check the weather and tidal conditions before you set out so that you can prepare accordingly. At sea changes in tidal streams could make conditions worse, particularly if the wind and tide are against each other. Tidal heights may hide underwater hazards;
• Wear a lifejacket – a lifejacket that is properly serviced and maintained will significantly increase your survival chances if you fall overboard. It should be fitted with a light, whistle and spray hood and if possible crotch straps to stop the lifejacket riding up over your head;
• Avoid alcohol – If you have been drinking alcohol, your judgement will be impaired and you will be more likely to make mistakes, which at sea could be life threatening;
• Keep in touch – Tell someone responsible ashore where you are going and what time you expect to return so they are able to let the Coastguard know if you are missing; and
• Wear the kill cord – if your boat is fitted with a kill cord, please ensure the driver wears it. If the driver ends up falling overboard, it may help save their life and the lives of others who may also be in the water.