Summer safety checklist

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 41, September 2012

Before heading out onto the water this summer, be sure to check over your equipment, communication devices, fuel, boat and lifejacket.

Service your engine

Schedule an annual service and make regular visual checks to ensure your boat’s engine is up to the job.

Check and change your fuel

If your boat has been out of the water for a while, it pays to replace old fuel with clean, fresh fuel. Never assume your trip will run exactly according to plan – always plan to use a third of your fuel for the trip out, a third for the trip back, and have a third in reserve to allow for anything unexpected.

Check your lifejackets

Make sure that lifejackets are still the correct size (especially for children), in good condition and suitable for the type of boating you do. A crotch strap is recommended for all lifejackets, especially children’s, and these can easily be retrofitted.

If you have an inflatable lifejacket, make sure it’s checked and serviced, and regularly check that the gas cylinder is properly secured and not corroded.

Give your boat a good once-over

Take a thorough look and make sure everything on your boat is in good working order. Start in one place and work your way around the boat, checking everything, inside and out. If you find anything that is damaged or worn, repair it properly or replace it.

If you have an inflatable lifejacket, make sure it’s checked and serviced, and regularly check that the gas cylinder is properly secured and not corroded.

Check your equipment

Look at all of the equipment on your boat and make sure it’s in good working order and you have everything you need. Check expiry dates on flares and fire extinguishers, and replace them if they’re out of date. Make sure the boat’s battery is professionally checked so that it will be capable of operating all electric equipment and have enough strength to start the motor. After lying idle over winter, batteries have a habit of providing a start or two before failing completely.

Check batteries on portable equipment such as torches, radios and your GPS, and replace them if you need to. Make sure your distress beacon’s registration is up to date.

Prepare for an emergency

Look at where your safety equipment is stored. Can you access it easily in an emergency or after a capsize? Put together a floating ‘grab bag’ that contains all the emergency gear you will need should your boat capsize.

Make sure that someone else knows how to operate the boat if the skipper can’t. Before you go out, brief your crew or passengers on what to do if things go wrong, and practise different scenarios – be mentally prepared for the unexpected.

Stay safe on the water

Wear your lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD)

Maritime law requires ALL skippers to carry enough lifejackets of the right size for everyone on board but we recommend that lifejackets are worn, especially by children and non-swimmers. Lifejackets must also be worn in any situation where there is an increased risk to safety.*

* Some regions also have bylaws in place making it compulsory for lifejackets to be worn in certain circumstances, so check with your regional council.

Check the marine weather forecast before you go

And keep checking the forecast while you are out, using VHF channel 16 or NowCasting on channel 21–23. If in doubt, don’t go out.

Carry at least two reliable forms of emergency communication that will work when wet

A distress beacon (EPIRB or PLB) and a handheld, waterproof marine VHF radio are the most reliable forms of emergency communication. Flares (red handheld, orange smoke and red parachute or rocket) are another useful way to signal that you need help. If carried, cellphones should be inside a resealable plastic bag, but should not be relied on as your only form of communication.

Don’t go overboard on alcohol

Alcohol impairs judgment and balance, and its effects are exaggerated on the water. Consumption of alcohol increases the risk of hypothermia and will reduce your survival time if you end up in the water.

Make a trip report

Let someone responsible know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Obey the 5 knot rule

Be considerate to other water users. Keep a lookout, stick to safe speeds and be patient, so that everyone can enjoy the water.

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