Two potentially disastrous boating incidents within a week highlight the need for recreational boaties to be well prepared before heading out on the water this summer.
Last Friday (9 November), two men suffered hypothermia after spending 12 hours drifting to shore on their upturned 4 metre boat after it capsized 5km off Mokau, in Taranaki.
The pair were wearing lifejackets but had no means of calling for help. The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he will not go to sea again without an EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) with GPS. A waterproof marine VHF radio is also on his shopping list.
Yesterday (14 November) the four occupants of 4.7 metre runabout that broke down off the northern end of Kapiti Island had only a cellphone to contact the Police with. They called for help at 5.40pm.
Their auxiliary engine was working only intermittently, with the vessel reaching Waikanae at around 6.30pm.
Again, once the main engine failed, all four donned lifejackets.
Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) Maritime Safey Inspector Alistair Thomson said the incidents highlighted simple safety guidelines that should be followed.
“It is gratifying that in both these cases the people were wearing lifejackets but all boaties should also carry at least two reliable means of calling for help. A distress beacon and a handheld, marine VHF radio are the most reliable forms of emergency communication, and flares can also be very useful if you need help,” he said.
“Cellphones shouldn’t be relied on as the main means of communication, because of issues with coverage on seas, rivers and lakes. They are useful as a backup but become useless when wet. Most boaties take their cellphones with them, but they should take the extra step of putting them in a ziplock bag.”
Boats that have been left unused for a sustained length of time also need to be checked carefully before use, Mr Thomson said.
“If a boat has not been used for some time, old fuel should be replaced – and there should be enough fuel to cover unforeseen occurrences. It pays to plan to use a third of your fuel for the trip out, a third for the return trip, and have a third in reserve,” he said.
The law requires boaties to carry enough lifejackets, of the correct size and type, for everyone on board. MNZ recommends that lifejackets are worn at all times as there is often not enough time to put them on when trouble hits. Lifejackets must be worn in situations where there is heightened risk, such as when crossing a bar or in rough weather, and children and non-swimmers should wear them at all times in vessels under 6 metres.”
Equipment on board should also be checked regularly, including the condition of lifejackets. Inflatable lifejackets may need to be serviced.
“Before deciding to head out, boaties should also check weather forecasts and tell someone how long they plan to be away. Out on the water they should avoid alcohol.”