With variable weather forecast for the Labour Day long weekend, Coastguard New Zealand urges boaties to check their boats before heading out on our seas, lakes and rivers.
This is just a practice - you don’t want to be involved in the real thing!
New Zealand’s weather and marine conditions are unpredictable and constantly changing, says Coastguard New Zealand CEO Patrick Holmes. Therefore skippers must remain vigilant at all times and take necessary steps to keep their boats seaworthy and protect those on board.
'Things can change very quickly on the water, but thorough planning and preparation can make that critical difference between a safe day out and a tragedy,' says Mr Holmes.
'Coastguard assisted 98 people across the country during Labour Weekend last year. The causes varied, ranging from people running out of fuel, mechanical issues, medical problems, running aground, capsize and more. Some of these situations could easily have been averted by preparation.'
Labour Weekend often marks the start of the summer season when many people get out on the water to take advantage of the extra day off work and longer hours of daylight.
'A boat requires maintenance throughout the year but if you have neglected your vessel over winter it needs to be checked thoroughly before heading out on the water, this Labour Weekend,' says Mr Holmes.
Coastguard recommends skippers should get boat engines serviced at least once a year. They should also check batteries, fuel line, oil, propeller, water pump and other hardware frequently.
Skippers should always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Coastguard New Zealand has a Two Minute form on its website for boaties to download, fill in and give to someone staying on land.
'It is vital that skippers know the Boating Safety Code and adhere to its five simple rules, including skipper responsibility and wearing and taking lifejackets,' Mr Holmes adds. 'Find accurate tide and marine weather forecast information before you launch and have two separate waterproof communication devices on board. And remember, safe boating and alcohol don’t mix.'
Boaties can take advantage of Coastguard’s NowCasting service which provides up-to-date marine wind strength and marine weather forecasts via VHF Radio across most of New Zealand. In the Northern Region they can also sign up to receive this information by SMS or download the Coastguard app from the Apple Store.
Coastguard performs over 3,200 rescues each year assisting over 7,080 New Zealanders. While the charity saves lives on the water it takes its role as educator very seriously.
Coastguard’s Water Safety Tips:
1. Mark your vessel (especially dinghies and kayaks) with your name and contact details so you can be contacted if it drifts loose.
2. All vessels should have a VHF radio as the primary means of communication. Make sure you always carry a charged up cell phone as a backup option and keep it safe in a water proof bag.
3. Ensure that there is a life jacket for every person on board that is the correct size and fit.
4. Make sure your vessel is prepared correctly, has all of the necessary safety equipment (including life jackets, flares etc), that your boat is fit for purpose and is in a good and sound condition - you should always be prepared for the worst.
5. Before you go on the water, always tell someone trustworthy (and preferably Coastguard) where you are going and what your intentions are. If something should happen, it will make the search and rescue efforts more efficient - meaning help will reach you faster.
6. Check the marine weather forecast before you launch. Coastguard’s NowCasting service offers free reliable and up-to-date information.
7. As the skipper, you are responsible for your vessel and all of the people on board at all times. Make sure all passengers have been given a safety briefing and know what to do in an emergency should anything happen to the skipper.
8. Avoid alcohol - safe boating and alcohol do not mix. Things can change quickly on the water and you need to stay alert and aware.
Mr Holmes says: 'Coastguard’s hard working volunteers will be out on the water and in the skies, flying our aircraft and providing safety services and vital information from Coastguard Operations Centres this Labour Weekend, so that Kiwis can enjoy their boating activities safely.'
For more information about Coastguard or to download the free 'Boating Safety Guide' which features a simple check list to run through before you head out on the water for this summer visit www.coastguard.co.nz