WITH the onset of the summer season the Appledore RNLI fears record numbers getting into difficulties. The team is urging all users of North Devon waters and coastline to prepare for every eventuality. Last year saw a 47 per cent increase in emergency calls to the Appledore lifeboat station - and figures for 2008 so far look like numbers will be bigger again this year!Many potential emergencies can be prevented and Appledore's rescuers offer this advice: Always tell someone where you are going and what time you are expected to return - Often a vessel being overdue precipitates a search and knowledge of the likely area can increase chances of a successful rescue. This can even apply to those using sea kayaks and smaller types of craft. It is vital to have a means of communication - Even in crowded waters and close to the shore a life-threatening incident may go unnoticed. A boat should have a VHF radio as mobile phones have limited battery life and signal strength and tend not to work when wet! The VHF direction finder on Appledore's all weather lifeboat can also be used to locate a VHF transmission in an emergency.If you have an engine in your boat, know the basics of starting, running and maintaining it - Spares should be carried and fuel calculated on approximately a third each for the outward and return trips and a third spare. Fuel gauges have been known to be faulty. Carry an alternative means of propulsion if possible. Engine failure alone does not warrant a Mayday call or the use of flares unless lack of power has put the boat and crew in grave and imminent danger. Check the remaining life of flares and how to use them - Before you're in an emergency in a rough sea, without spectacles! Out of date flares should be passed to the coastguard for safe disposal. Check the condition of lifejackets - Apart from checking the cylinder has not gone rusty, blow the lifejacket up manually and keep it inflated for 24 hours. If it deflates in that time get a new one! Check its stitching, that it has a crutch strap and a water-activated light. A chart of the area is a necessity for anyone going out into Bideford Bay - Learn how to read and understand it. A Global Positioning System (GPS) is a very good idea. Always check the weather forecast before you set off. Appledore RNLI provides free sea safety checks on any boat. There is no pass or fail certificate, but they are designed to provide personalised advice and recommendations about how to make your boat safer. For your free check call Doug Spiller on (01237) 424 946.If you see anyone in trouble in, on, or by the sea, call the emergency services on 999.