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Two children in a rowing boat near Bragdøya outside of Kristiansand, Southern Norway
Girl rowing a boat at Bragdøye in Kristiansand, Southern Norway
Bragdøya in Kristiansand.
Photo: Adam Read / Visit Sørlandet
Bragdøya in Kristiansand.
Photo: Adam Read, Visit Sørlandet

Water safety

To an extent, all Norwegians have salt water in their veins and learn at an early age how to behave in boats and along the shore. Nevertheless, we all need some water safety tips in order to stay safe and dry.

Emergency telephone numbers

Keep in mind that there might not be cell phone coverage where you are heading.

120 – Emergencies at sea

110 – Fire
112 – Police
113 – Ambulance
22 59 13 00 – Poisons Information Centre
1412 TDD (textphone for the deaf or hearing impaired)

Think about boat safety and plan your trip before you go. Knowledge and planning reduce the risks and increase the fun. Always tell someone where you’ll be going, when you expect to be back, and what your boat looks like. If you’re leasing a boat, you should give your leasing agent this information. Also, ask the locals where it is safe and where the waters are dangerous.

Bring the necessary equipment

All the equipment on the boat must be in good condition and easily accessible. Familiarize yourself with the navigation system and other technical equipment on board. Being able to use this equipment correctly will significantly increase your safety.

Remember to bring a mobile phone, preferably stored in a waterproof plastic container. This will enable you to report any changes in your plans or call for assistance if needed.

Keep visual distress devices on board, such as pyrotechnic red flares, orange distress flags, or lights.

And don’t forget to bring enough fuel.

Check the weather reports

Check weather and water conditions before leaving shore. The weather, especially at sea, can change dramatically within minutes. Respect the waters and the weather and only use boats when the conditions are suitable. Don’t stay out too long before you return to land.

Weather forecast from Yr, delivered by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). Download Yr’s free weather app for iOS or Android.

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Don’t overload your boat

Believe it or not, gravity also applies at sea. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed, and don’t overcrowd the boat, as this will obviously have a negative effect on your trip and compromise the safety on board.

Man overboard

If somebody falls overboard, it is important to get them back on the boat as soon as possible. Even in summer hypothermia can set in within minutes. If necessary, throw a flotation device to the victim, but do not jump in yourself. If the flotation device has a rope attached, or a flashing beacon, then so much the better. If you can’t to get the person out of the water, try towing him back to shore. Never leave anyone in the sea whilst you go to seek help.

When the person is back on board, get him out of wet clothes and into something dry as fast as possible. The priority is to prevent further heat loss from the body, which will usually continue to cool for 15 to 20 minutes after getting out of the water.

Be careful in a rescue situation

When helping somebody into your boat, be careful to not tip your vessel, especially if you’re in a small rowing boat, canoe, or kayak.

If your boat is overturned but still floating, don’t try to swim to safety, but stay nearby and await rescue. If you can, climb onto the boat, but be careful so that it doesn’t get unstable.

The tail of the Codfather

A group of people in a boat, white-water rafting in Voss, Fjord Norway
Photo: Asgeir Helgestad / Artic Light AS /

Shores, rivers, and lakes

The wet and the cold is not only a dangerous problem at sea. You can just as easily fall in from the shore, whether you’re by the coast, a lake, or a river.

Much of Norway is steep and wet, a combination which makes for some great rafting. But don’t go rafting on your own. A guide should always accompany you, as they have the equipment and the know-how to assess the safety at any given time.

If you’re wading in a river, assess the force of the current carefully. The water has a lot of momentum and may sweep your legs from under you before you know it. A wading staff might help you keep your balance.

If you lose your footing in a river and are swept downstream, try to maintain a sitting position in the water, with your legs stretched out in the direction you are going, to protect yourself from hitting rocks and boulders. Keep your feet high in the water so that they don’t snag rocks and debris on the bottom, which can drag you under if the current is strong enough. You can control your direction and angle by “swimming” with your arms.

Want some safe fun?

Countless lakes and rivers and an extensive coastline mean great opportunities for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, and rafting.

Stay safe wherever you are

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See our selection of companies that work hard to make you happy all through your trip.

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