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Incidents on the water and ashore highlight need to carry EPIRB's

by Sail-World on 24 Nov 2012
Westhaven - Luna Rossa, November 19, 2012 Westhaven Sail-World.com/NZ ©

Earlier this week, the Westpac helicopter was called out to investigate an EPIRB signal coming from the Beaumont Street area.

The signal has been identified as coming from the Pier 21 and Orams Marine area including the dry hoist. In the end no signal was able to be identified from the ground.

However Maritime Safety has identified two potentially disastrous boating incidents within a week highlight the need for recreational boaties to be well prepared before heading out on the water this summer.

On November 9, two men suffered hypothermia after spending 12 hours drifting to shore on their upturned 4 metre boat after it capsized 5km off Mokau, in Taranaki.

The pair were wearing lifejackets but had no means of calling for help. The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he will not go to sea again without an EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) with GPS. A waterproof marine VHF radio is also on his shopping list.

On November 14, the four occupants of 4.7 metre runabout that broke down off the northern end of Kapiti Island had only a cellphone to contact the Police with. They called for help at 5.40pm.

Their auxiliary engine was working only intermittently, with the vessel reaching Waikanae at around 6.30pm.

Again, once the main engine failed, all four donned lifejackets.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) Maritime Safey Inspector Alistair Thomson said the incidents highlighted simple safety guidelines that should be followed.

'It is gratifying that in both these cases the people were wearing lifejackets but all boaties should also carry at least two reliable means of calling for help. A distress beacon and a handheld, marine VHF radio are the most reliable forms of emergency communication, and flares can also be very useful if you need help,' he said.

'Cellphones shouldn’t be relied on as the main means of communication, because of issues with coverage on seas, rivers and lakes. They are useful as a backup but become useless when wet. Most boaties take their cellphones with them, but they should take the extra step of putting them in a ziplock bag.'

Boats that have been left unused for a sustained length of time also need to be checked carefully before use, Mr Thomson said.

'If a boat has not been used for some time, old fuel should be replaced – and there should be enough fuel to cover unforeseen occurrences. It pays to plan to use a third of your fuel for the trip out, a third for the return trip, and have a third in reserve,' he said.

The law requires boaties to carry enough lifejackets, of the correct size and type, for everyone on board. MNZ recommends that lifejackets are worn at all times as there is often not enough time to put them on when trouble hits. Lifejackets must be worn in situations where there is heightened risk, such as when crossing a bar or in rough weather, and children and non-swimmers should wear them at all times in vessels under 6 metres.'

Equipment on board should also be checked regularly, including the condition of lifejackets. Inflatable lifejackets may need to be serviced.

'Before deciding to head out, boaties should also check weather forecasts and tell someone how long they plan to be away. Out on the water they should avoid alcohol.'

Earlier, the rescue of two trampers with broken ankles within two days highlights the value of carrying personal locator beacons when tramping in remote locations.

A 67-year-old Dunedin woman was picked up from the Siberia Valley near Wanaka by the Southern Lakes rescue helicopter at around 7pm last night after breaking her ankle while on an over-60s tramping trip.

Because the group was able to activate a personal locator beacon, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was able to arrange the rescue quickly and without difficulty.

The woman was flown to Wanaka for medical treatment.

On Monday night, November 12, a 24-year-old woman from a party of three was winched from Stewart Island, also with a broken ankle, after activating a personal locator beacon. She was flown by the Southern Lakes rescue helicopter to Kew Hospital in Invercargill for treatment.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Geoff Lunt said personal locator beacons could substantially reduce rescue times.

'Personal locator beacons with GPS capability should be part of any trampers’ equipment if they are heading somewhere remote,' Mr Lunt said.

'They can be purchased or hired and can mean the difference between a long, uncomfortable wait and a quick rescue - they can save lives.

'They should also be registered, so that RCCNZ can quickly reach emergency contacts, if required.'

Information on beacons is available at: www.beacons.org.nz
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