Don’t be a clown this summer – check you’re good to go

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 41, September 2012

If your boat has been under wraps for the winter, it’s time to start thinking about what you need to do before taking to the water again.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
A clown helps spread the lifejacket wearing message at the Auckland Boat Show in May.

“Labour Weekend is the traditional start of the summer boating season, but that doesn’t mean your boat and gear will be up to scratch and ready to go if it’s been sitting idle. Even if you have taken to the water over winter, it’s good to take stock of your gear and boat’s condition – much like replacing your smoke alarm batteries when daylight saving kicks in,” said Baz Kirk, MNZ’s Manager Commercial and Recreational Liaison.

The start of the summer boating season is usually a busy time for Coastguard, who often get called out to tow boats that haven’t been checked properly after being bought or haven’t been maintained and have broken down.

MNZ’s “Don’t be a clown” campaign focuses on the importance of skippers taking responsibility to ensure everyone on board their vessel wears a lifejacket with a tag line that aims to encourage skippers to step up and issue the lifejacket challenge – “If you’re not on board with lifejackets, you’re not on board”.

Results from the annual recreational boat ramp survey carried out in January and February this year showed that 94% of vessels surveyed had all (38%) or some (56%) of people on board wearing a lifejacket.

“That’s a fantastic result, with most vessels (99%) meeting the legal requirement to carry enough lifejackets of the right size and type for everyone on board. We’re encouraging skippers to make sure that all on board are wearing lifejackets, particularly when there’s greater risk, such as when crossing a bar or in bad weather,” said Baz.

The fact is that anyone can get into trouble at any time, no matter how experienced they are or how calm the water is. “Trouble usually happens so quickly that you don’t have time to find your lifejacket and put it on, or locate your emergency comms equipment. Wearing a lifejacket, carrying a way of calling for help and being prepared can make all the difference,” says Baz.

One of the disappointing results from the boat ramp survey was a decrease in the number of boaties carrying emergency communications equipment – carriage of VHF radios, distress beacons, cellphones and flares were all down on the previous year’s results.

Most people (91%) carry a cellphone, but only half (53%) of those put the cellphone in a plastic bag. “The simple act of putting your phone in a bag will probably save your phone if it ends up in the water and it could save your life,” says Baz. While cellphones shouldn’t be relied on as the main means of calling for help, they’re a good back-up if there’s coverage in the area you’re boating in and they’re easy to keep on you.

If you want to have trouble-free boating, make sure that your vessel and equipment is in good working order before you take it out. If you’re new to boating, then check out the courses Coastguard or your local boating club has on offer.

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