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Safety on the water

by Jarrod Day, FishingBoating-World Editor on 2 Apr 2013
Jarrod Day
When it comes to boating safety, often the small things are overlooked. While it is not intentional, these things just happen.

There is no doubt that boat safety should be a forethought other than bait, rods, reels and tackle but often anglers and boaters in general can become quite complacent. On numerous occasions I have talked to fishing store customers who are purchasing a new set of flares because they have been checked at a local ramp and found to have out of date ones or worse, none at all.

I have heard stories of boaters being booked due to having their life jackets stowed away in compartments where they are inaccessible or not kept up to date and I have personally powered past under anchor during the middle of the night without any lights on altogether. Is is a fish really worth your life?

Unfortunately, boating accidents are a regular occurrence right around the country and whether it is crossing a bar or just not checking your flares are up to date, a simple check of the below before heading out can prevent you from becoming a news headline.


Life jackets: It is mandatory that boaters have life jackets on their boats but they need to be in an easy accessible location should danger arise. These days some boaters have specialised self inflating jackets and while comfortable and can be worn all the time, they do require regular two year testing otherwise you can be fined. Life jackets are big an bulky and some boaters tend to store them in closed hatches or under the boats floor which if the boat flips isn’t really going to save your life. If you are going boating, ensure your life jacket is close by if not on and if you have a self inflatable jacket, check that it has been tested and has a current stamped Check out this video for more.

Flares: Flares are the most common item that is left unchecked. The years roll around - Old flares have to be replaced because they become unreliable. With a three year used by date, I can understand this slipping a boaters mind but should you have a little checklist hanging on your dashboard, things like this won’t be forgotten any Check out this video for more.

Epirb: If you’re heading offshore more than 2nm you are required by law, regardless of your vessel size to carry an epirb. Though you might have one on board or just took ownership of one you still have to log onto the internet and register it. It is no use if you have not registered it as you might as well hadn’t had one in the first place.

Fire extinguisher: All boats require a fire extinguisher due to carrying fuel but different sized boats with different sized fuel capacities will require larger extinguishers. Be sure you have the right one on board otherwise you’ll find yourself with a fine as well as having to purchase the right one.

Petrol + oil: Depending on where you’re heading, it pays to always check your petrol and oil levels along with having some spare on board. When the tuna season hits in Victoria, there is always a boater or multiple boaters than call the coast guard to tow them back in as they have run out of fuel. There is no excuse for this kind of negligence when it comes to boating. If you own the boat, you should know the distances you can travel. If you are heading further then normal or the weather is slightly rougher than normal, take some extra petrol to ensure you’ll get home.

Food and water: Other forgotten items can be food and water. Water is very important should you be stuck out all day. It is not hard to fill a few water bottles and store them in the side pockets of the boat. Spare food is equally as important and can also be stored in the boats side pockets or under the seats. While a can of cold baked beans may not be a delicious meal, it can be a nice snack if you have forgotten to take any food for the day. Canned foods will store for months in a boat and if kept out of direct sunlight.

VHF and UHF Radios: A 27MHz or, preferably, VHF marine radio should always be the primary form of communication when on the water. (Regard your mobile phone only as a back-up communication device.)

Though it is law to have at least one radio it is also worth checking on a regular basis if it works and other boaters can hear you by simply asking for a 'radio check' while on the Check out this video for more.

Weather conditions: Weather conditions are one of the most important safety factors when it comes to boating. Weather conditions can change rapidly so it pays to know what is dealt for the day by checking local news and or logging onto one of the many weather websites such as www.willyweather.com.au or www.seabreeze.com.au.

Knowing what the weather is doing and with having a basic idea of the layout of the location your fishing can have you safe rather than in danger.

Lights check: Boating lights are also worth checking when heading out and if you’re fishing by night, leave them on all the time. Time and time again I have headed out and seen first hand anglers at anchor with all their lights off. While they are trying to not let other anglers know where they are fishing, they are endangering lives. Before heading off, ensure your navigational lights are in working order along with your anchor light and make sure you have them on when at anchor.

First aid kit: Not a mandatory item, first aid kits are a good addition that can be stowed in a side pocket or dash board. Should someone cut themselves or get a hook in their finger, having the ability to apply a limited amount of first aid to the person will be far better than leaving them with nothing at all.

Communication: Lastly, communication can play a big role should something go wrong. Each time I head off fishing I always tell my wife where I am going and although the exact location can be changed, she still has a general idea of where I will be. Should the location totally change altogether, I send her a text message so at least she is kept up to date. If you don’t own a mobile phone, then just a general location will be enough so if you don’t return, the police or coast guard can be notified and they will have a general location to search.


Though this check list was written to jog your memory, it is a good idea to ensure that all of these or at least the most important are adhered to before heading out. If you want more information on the basic requirements for boating in Victoria, follow the link and download the boating handbook here.

For the New South Wales boating guide, you can follow the link here.

For the South Australian boating guide, you can follow the link here.

For the Queensland boating guide, you can follow the link here.

For the Tasmanian boating guide, you can follow the link here.

For the Western Australian boating guide, you can follow the link here.


On the fishing front this week, Gary Brown looks at how fishing tournaments and competitions have changed over the years. Gary has been fishing tournaments since he was a young boy and explains how things have changed over the years.


Carl Hyland takes an in-depth look into the world of the rainbow trout. With factual information and a neat little video, Carl really takes the time to explain why catching rainbows can be a lot of fun using all sorts of techniques.

While Lee Brake has headed north this week he will be back next week with a wrap up from fishing on board Eclipse. Lee is currently fishing at Marpoon and will surely have a lot of fun things to write about when he returns.

I on the other hand dive back into the world of perch fishing and look at the weather, lures and gear for targeting estuary perch.

Stay safe on the water,

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