Maritime New Zealand is urging all boaties, not just those in larger vessels to be mindful of safe boating practices, following the fruitless search for a 72-year-old man off the Wairarapa coastline.
The Martinborough man went out in stormy conditions to set a crayfish pot but never returned. His 2-3m inflatable boat was found nearly 70km from shore, but the search for him was suspended after no further sign was found.
Maritime Officer Alistair Thomson says the incident shows how quickly things can go wrong.
“Small inflatables like this one are especially vulnerable in windy conditions. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of being prepared – checking the marine forecast, wearing a lifejacket, and having means of communicating distress.”
Alastair says another key point is to let someone know where you’re going, and when to expect you back.
“A search was only initiated after a passer-by reported the man’s vehicle and trailer on the shore, over nine hours after he set out. The sooner rescue staff know someone could be in trouble, the sooner help can be on the scene.”
In another recent incident, four men were rescued from the sea off the Taieri River mouth, south of Dunedin, after their boat sank rapidly. They were able to broadcast a Mayday call on VHF Channel 16, before abandoning ship.
“These guys did all the right things. They were able to let authorities know they were in trouble, all had lifejackets, and once in the water, they huddled together to prevent hypothermia and to make it easier for rescuers to locate them,” said Alistair.
The men were airlifted to a waiting ambulance, where they were checked over by paramedics.