Know the dangers when heading out on small recreational water crafts this summer

18 December 2023

More than half of New Zealand’s recreational craft fatalities during 2022 occurred on vessels under six metres in length.

Dinghies and inflatable watercraft come with inherent risks, so it important to keep safety practices in mind when using these to ensure you come home safe this summer.

Maritime NZ's Recreational Craft Harm Prevention Lead, Victoria Slade says making sure you have planned your journey and have correct safety equipment is critical, even if you are on an in-shore waterway or just off the coast.

"The likes of dinghies, kayaks, canoes and inflatables have a range of risks users wouldn’t encounter on larger vessels.

"They can lack the stability you will have on a larger vessel, and if tipped out, can be difficult to get back into or re-float should they end upside down.

"Always wear a properly fitted lifejacket when on board dinghies and inflatables - More than half of the people who died in recreational craft activities in 2022 were not wearing a lifejacket.

While there were just over 1900 injuries claims through ACC relating to incidents on small craft in 2022.

"These injury statistics show that a fun day out on the water can easily turn, having lasting and significant consequences.

"Even if you are taking a short journey in a dingy or small vessel, you need to plan for what could potentially go wrong.

"Marine weather can change quickly and is often different to what is forecast on shore. Even on in-land bodies of water.

"It is essential to carry two waterproof ways to call for help. Having cellphones, or beacons, even out on a small paddle could be lifesaving," she says.

When planning a trip, it is important to consider how many people your vessel can safely carry.

"If you are going from land to another vessel, you are better off making multiple trips, than one and overloading a vessel.

"Overloading a small vessel can reduce a vessels stability and make it more susceptible to capsize," Victoria Slade says.

Maritime NZ also wants to remind people of the importance of watching out for other water users, and thinking about other vessels on the water.

"Make sure you are visible to all the vessels around you. When on the water in a smaller craft the size of larger vessels may mean it is difficult to spot dinghies, kayaks or inflatables.

"We want everyone to have fun this summer, but most importantly come home safe.

"A key piece of work we are undertaking with the sector is our Safer Boating Forum’s 2023 -25 Recreational Craft Strategy. We want to see the number of fatal incidents drop by a quarter and reduce the preventable injuries by just over 10%," Victoria Slade says.

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