Lucky escape when boat dashed on rocks

Lookout! Issue 33, June 2015

A toddler was among a family of four who had a lucky escape shortly before their boat was dashed to pieces on rocks.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
The untested craft crashed into rocks and broke into pieces.

The group was not wearing lifejackets, and there were none onboard, when the motor of their recently purchased pleasure boat seized while out fishing on a popular river late one afternoon. The vessel had begun floating toward a notorious bar on the river, when the father of the youngster got out the oars. He started rowing the small craft toward rocks where, despite the swells, the four were able to clamber ashore.

The light craft, bought three days before from the roadside and not tested or serviced, began to disintegrate as the swells smashed it onto the rocks. It had to be abandoned, and a large part of the hull was quickly washed down river, where it ended up on a coastal beach.

Fortunately for the family, emergency services personnel returned them safely to their car near the boat ramp, with a word of warning about safe boating practices.


  • The skipper put his family at risk using an untested light craft, without lifejackets. Fortunately he had oars on board and was able to use these to get to safety when the motor seized. Otherwise there could easily have been a fatality.
  • Lifejackets are a legal requirement. You must carry a correctly sized, serviceable lifejacket for each person on board a recreational boat in New Zealand. This rule applies to all boats, including tenders and larger craft.
  • When buying a boat, ask the owner to take you out for a sea trial in the vessel. If you are new to boating, consider taking along someone who is an experienced and knowledgeable boatie who can advise you whether the vessel is safe and whether it is suitable for the purpose you want to use it - diving, fishing, etc. Check the vessel is also suitable for the local sea conditions.
  • Make sure you know how to operate the vessel, where the safety equipment is (including bungs), how to operate the VHF radio, or where there is dry storage for flares etc in the event of an emergency.
  • Check the service record of the engine before setting out, and if necessary ensure it is fully serviced to prepare, as thoroughly as possible, for safe boating.

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