Before you head out

Learn about the tasks you need to do just before you hit the water.

1. Get familiar with the area

Make sure you get local knowledge about hazards.

Every region in New Zealand has local variations in the environment and water conditions. Make sure you have the latest scale chart of any area where you go boating. Charts show things such as water depth, rocks above and below the water, underwater cables, tidal flows, buoys, beacons, lighthouses and the coastline.


2. Check the conditions

Make sure you are up-to-date with the marine weather forecast and tides for your boating area.

Marine forecasts are good at predicting major weather events, e.g. gales, but they may be less accurate when predicting changes in local conditions. Be sure to seek local information and knowledge and be prepared for the unexpected.

If you are in doubt, change your plans and don’t go out.


3. Share your plans

Let someone responsible know where you’re going, when you expect to be back and to call the police if you are overdue.

Be sure to leave details regarding:

  • the number of people on board or going with you
  • your boat, e.g. your boat’s name and radio callsign

You can file a trip report by VHF radio or Maritime radio with Coastguard or log a trip plan using the Coastguard NZ app. Don’t forget to cancel your trip report when you return safely!

A persons hand holding a mobile phone with an app running on its screen. A shoreline with a gravel beach is in the background.

Alternatively if you dont have a VHF radio, or the Coastguard NZ app on your phone, you can use this simple trip report form.

This will help you provide the key information your family and emergency services would need if you have to be rescued.

Trip report form [PDF: 40kB, 1 page]

Leave a copy with family or friends who can call Police if you are overdue. You might also be able to leave a copy at a boat club.


4. Stow your gear onboard

Have you got the right safety gear on-board?

To ensure a safe and trouble-free boating experience, make sure your gear is in working order, accessible and stowed away on board.

Do a quick check for:


Communications equipment


5. Plan your boat launch

When you arrive at the boat ramp, park well out of the way of other boats as you prepare to launch your boat.

Maritime NZ
Prepare and plan the launch and retrieval of your boat.

Watch out for overhead wires. It is extremely dangerous to pass under one if your vessel’s total height exceeds the ‘SAFE CLEARANCE’ given to your boating area. Electrical arcing and burns can occur from contact with powerlines.

As you prepare to enter the water:

  • put in bungs and check that they are secure
  • check that your safety gear is abroad
  • check that you have enough fuel
  • brief your crew and passengers - make sure everyone knows how to find and work the safety equipment stowed onboard

Slowly move away from the ramp, while keeping a good lookout - remember the 5 knot rule.

Related information:

Know how to operate safely

Know your responsibilities as a skipper and understand the boating rules.

Skipper responsibilities

Maritime on mobile

Get updates, weather forecasts, relevant local information and more on your smartphone.

Apps for boaties