Skippers need to be alert and pay attention at all times

31 March 2023

Recreational craft users are being reminded of their skipper responsibilities following the sentencing of a boatie in Invercargill this week.

A skipper was this week sentenced in the Invercargill District Court in relation to a grounding of their vessel on Lake Wakatipu in November 2021.

He was sentenced under the Maritime Transport Act.

On the day of the accident, the skipper took a group of friends out on the lake for a fishing trip aboard the 8.5 metre vessel.

The skipper had over 45 years’ experience on the water. Most people on board, including the skipper were drinking alcohol.

When the vessel was out on the lake, the skipper gave control of the vessel to the guests.

Manager, General Regulatory Operations, John Drury says there were three times during the journey the skipper allowed passengers to take control of the vessel.

"As a skipper, if you are passing over control, you should always be sure they have the capability knowledge and understanding to safely manage the vessel.

Later in the day, conditions on the lake started to become choppy.

The skipper didn’t provide supervision to those in charge of the vessel.

The boat’s speed was increased by him, when close to the shore, and this meant the vessel was not doing a safe speed (it was travelling 7 knots) and about 20 metres off the shore.

The vessel then grounded.

"If someone was looking out for risks, the proximity to the shore may have been identified and the accident could have been avoided.

"The passenger in control at the time, was inexperienced, had not received updated instructions and had been drinking prior to being in charge.

"Any skipper should be aware of how the vessel is managed and the skills of those in charge. He needed to supervise, monitor and instruct those in charge of the vessel," John Drury says. 

The skipper didn’t ensure he properly managed his own level of intoxication. He also felt unwell due to a diabetic low during the excursion.

"Skippers need to understand the impacts of alcohol and their health conditions when planning journeys," John Drury says. 

Four people including the skipper suffered injuries as a result of the grounding.

Sentencing notes:

The skipper was fined $1000, plus $130 court costs.

Reparation amounting to $1850 was paid to two victims 

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