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95 Harbor Master Rd., South San Francisco, CA 94080
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Oyster Point Dragons
Safety Manual

Practice Site Information – Gate Number 7, 95 Harbor Master Road, Oyster Point Marina, South San Francisco, CA 94080.

Parking – Ample parking is available in the area. The area is generally very safe but please practice good car security precautions by keeping all valuables out of sight with windows closed and doors locked. Bicycles should also be locked at available racks near the ferry terminal. If you park on Harbor Master Road, please leave at least three parking spaces next to the Harbormaster office for other tenants or visitors.In addition, if possible, back into the parking stalls, which will increase your visibility of small children when leaving the practice site.

Waiver Requirements for All Paddlers – Every paddler is required to complete and sign an annual waiver, either electronically or on paper, before boarding a dragon boat; no exception. Paper waivers are scanned for electronic storage and for reference in case of emergency. Electronic waivers will require your consent to conduct business electronically with OPD concurrently with your electronic signature for the waiver.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – Every paddler must wear a class III U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD at all times while on the boat; no exception. The PFD must be properly fastened to one’s torso with the straps tightened to provide a snug fit.

Port and Starboard - Nautical terms for left and right, respectively. Port is the left-hand side of a vessel, facing forward. Starboard is the right-hand side, facing forward. Since port and starboard never change, they are unambiguous references that are not relative to the observer.

Standard Dragon Boat and Safety Commands – See the separate OPD document entitled ‘Basic Commands, Techniques, & Components of a Boat.’

General Rules:  

  1. Weather permitting, a minimum of eight (8) paddlers, not counting the steersperson, must be on board for off-the-dock practices to be held.
  2. Paddler must be fit enough to paddle.
  3. Alcohol is not permitted on the boat.
  4. Members are not allowed to paddle if they are under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.


  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Take water breaks during practice sessions.
  3. Wear weather appropriate clothing: quick-dry, wicking, water shoes or sandals; avoid cotton.
  4. Apply sunscreen, even on overcast days.
  5. Wear sunglasses to protect eyes from harmful UV rays.

Paddlers’ Responsibilities:

  1. Abide by the Paddler’s Code of Conduct.
  2. Prior to boarding, sign-in by the supply shed; this is the rescuers’ manifest for emergencies.
  3. Fasten the PFD and adjust for a snug fit prior to boarding the boat.
  4. Do not move to a different seat unless directed to.
  5. Remain seated with your hips to the gunnel unless directed otherwise.
  6. Do not make sudden weight shifts while on board.
  7. Pay attention to the commands at all times keeping all other conversations to a minimum.
  8. To report a medical or other emergency while in intense paddling, raise your paddle blade up.
  9. In case of emergency, do not panic. See “Emergency Situations” below.

Coach’s Responsibilities:

  1. Abide by the Coach’s Code of Conduct.
  2. Conduct a safety briefing with all new paddlers.
  3. Take charge of all paddlers and steersperson, and ensure all rules are complied with at all times.
  4. Ensure practice sessions are safe for all paddlers.
  5. Keep the boat in calm water to ensure safety of the crew.
  6. File and report any damage, loss, or theft of equipment to the Harbor Master and to OPD Board.
  7. File and report any incidents to the Harbor Master and to OPD Board.
  8. Carry the UHF radio and a cell phone on board for emergency situations.

Steersperson’s Responsibilities:

  1. Check/maintain the safety box supplies once a month.
  2. Charge the radios on a regular basis.
  3. Confirm a bailer, a throw bag, and emergency kit, including a radio, air horn, air gun or flare are on board prior to leaving the dock.
  4. Ensure the steering area is clear of obstacles like paddles, PFDs, etc.
  5. Ensure the boat is balanced and give commands for loading and unloading the boat.
  6. In any emergency situation, the steersperson’s commands override the coach’s and drummer’s.
  7. Stop or hold the boat whenever there is boat traffic coming in or out of the channel.
  8. Stay 20 feet away from the sea wall, structures, or other boats, to avoid sudden or unforeseen waves.
  9. Stay clear and away from fishing lines.
  10. Do not insist on having right-of-way even if the human-powered vessel has the right-of-way.
  11. Pass oncoming vessels on the steersperson’s left-hand-side, Port.
  12. At a crossing situation, give right-of-way to the vessel on the steersperson’s right, Starboard.
  13. Remember that ferries are big and heavy; thus hard to stop or turn.
  14. Give appropriate commands for a paddler to retrieve objects from the water.
  15. Practice common sense at all times.

Emergency Situations:

     Radio Channel:

  • A UHF Radio set to Channel 16 connects to the U.S. Coast Guard Command Center.
  • Information to be provided to an emergency responder:
  1.           Location;
  2.           Nature of distress;
  3.           Number of people involved;
  4.           Vessel type (dragon boat); and
  5.           Whether everyone is wearing a PFD.

     Always Listen:

  1. Always listen to the drummer or steersperson.
  2. If you hear ‘HOLD THE BOAT OR STOP THE BOAT’ at any time, follow their directions immediately.
  3. Limit chatting; do not scream or panic, but try to stay calm.
  4. Use common sense at all times.

     Buddy System:

  1. Know your seat number and your seat mate. If the boat goes over, the steersperson can account for everyone by having everyone call out his/her number, and/or determine who is missing.
  2. Call out and look for your buddy in the event of a capsize; however, bear in mind that when a boat rolls, your buddy may end up on the other side.
  3. Ask for his/her status and condition.
  4. Do not hold on to your buddy. If still available, use your paddle as your connection; otherwise, reach out by extending your arm.
  5. The first and last seats on the boat must also check for the drummer/coach and steersperson.
  6. In a case of ‘man overboard,’ wait for the steersperson to maneuver to an optimal boat position and listen to all commands before extending out your paddle handle (the T).

     If the Boat Rolls Over:

  1. A roll-over may not be stopped once it starts to turn.  
  2. If you are on the higher side of the boat when it begins to go over, try to jump clear of your seat partner to avoid injury.  
  3. If you come up under the boat, there will be an air pocket available for you to catch your breath and get your bearings.  
  4. Feel your way to the side of the boat and then surface on the outside.  Call out to your buddy to let him/her know where you are.
  5. Hold on to the gunnel.
  6. If you are separated from the boat, hold on to your PFD, tucking in your arms to protect your elbows.
  7. Always watch your head to prevent a head injury.

     Stay With the Boat:

  1. Stay with the boat until the rescue craft arrives.  
  2. Under no circumstances should you attempt to swim to shore.  
  3. Spread evenly around both sides of the capsized boat, holding onto the top edge (gunnel) or to your paddle if you still have it.  
  4. The boat has the capacity to support a full crew even when fully submerged (due to lightweight construction and bulkheads filled with air).
  5. If the dragon boat is upside down after capsizing, spread evenly around the outside and, if possible, gently roll it over.
  6. Remember there may be others trapped underneath. Look for or call out to your ‘buddy’ and obey the instructions of the rescue boat.  
  7. Once the Rescue Boat arrives, they are in charge.
  8. If other paddlers are injured or having difficulty reaching the boat, give them assistance reaching the boat and make the rescue boat aware of the situation.


  1.  If the steersperson or anyone falls into the water, someone must immediately call out: “Man Overboard.” This call communicates the situation to the entire boat.
  2. The coach takes over the command and keeps everyone calm.
  3. Call for, and maintain, a “Brace” until a new command is called.
  4. Identify a time keeper to track how long the person has been in the water.
  5. Call out to the person to check for alertness and responsiveness.
  6. If the person is alert, quickly toss the throw rope at the person; this connects the boat with the person to prevent further drifting, especially if there is a strong current. 
  7. Once the person has a good rope-grip, the crew pulls the person towards the boat to minimize the distance and to conserve the person’s energy.
  8. If possible, try to pull the person back onto the boat at the front or at the back of the boat without leaning outwards.
  9. Wrap the person in the space blankets located in the safety box.
  10. If it is difficult to pull the person back onto the boat, quickly wrap the rope around his/her waist and paddle back to shore with ample clearance around the person.
  11. This entire rescue mission must be completed within 10 minutes or less to reduce the risk of hypothermia. The time keeper needs to remind the coach every 3 minutes on how much time has elapsed.
  12. Once on shore, keep the person wrapped in the space blanket, have someone stay with the person, and drive the person immediately to one of the bathrooms for a hot shower.
  13. All paddlers should keep a set of dry clothes in their car or inside the shed; at a minimum, two towels and an extra jacket.


  • OPD Safety Committee.
  • Certain sections were incorporated under consent from the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF).

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