by Ken McManus
This year’s boating season has started early, with the warm weather drawing many boaters back on to the water and Marine Rescue NSW volunteers rescuing a number of people from life-threatening emergencies in recent weeks.
This holiday weekend will see thousands more boaters take to the water and Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Stacey Tannos has urged skippers to always ensure everyone on board wears a lifejacket.
Commissioner Tannos said this was the simplest safety measure to help protect lives in the unfortunate event of a boating emergency.
'In the 12 months between July 2012 and June 2013 there were 27 drowning deaths in boating tragedies. Lifejackets could have prevented such a terrible waste of life,' he said.
'A lifejacket can only save your life if you are wearing it. Putting on your lifejacket should be the very first thing you do when you step on board your boat and you should not take it off till you’re back on land.
'The skipper is responsible for the safety of their boat and all passengers and should ensure everyone on board wears their lifejacket at all times.
'Many accidents and mishaps are not foreseeable and conditions can change rapidly on the water. It’s not worth risking your life or those of your family and friends. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life wishing you’d been safe, not sorry.
'A range of modern, light-weight jackets that are comfortable and allow for a full range of movement is now available on the market. If you find your old-model jacket bulky and cumbersome to wear for extended periods, it’s worth considering investing in a new model.'
Marine Rescue NSW units along the coastline from Point Danger to Eden and on the Alpine Lakes are standing by for a potential spike in boating breakdowns over the long weekend and coming weeks as many skippers launch their boats again after the winter lay-off.
'The October long weekend is the traditional start to the boating season in NSW and no doubt some skippers will discover, to their dismay, that something on their boat or trailer doesn’t work as it should after spending the winter months idle,' Commissioner Tannos said.
'It can take as little as three months for fuel to become contaminated so old petrol in your tank is almost certainly off. Electrical connections can corrode and there is every chance the battery will be flat.
'Over recent years, about 50 per cent of rescue calls to MRNSW have been the result of mechanical problems, often caused by contaminated fuel. Electrical or flat battery problems cause an average of 10 per cent of calls, followed by people running out of fuel in six per cent of cases.
'This means two-thirds of all breakdowns to which our volunteers respond are caused by problems that could possibly have been prevented by thorough maintenance checks and proper preparation.
'All skippers should check their boat’s mechanics, electrical systems and trailer and have any essential maintenance work carried out before heading out for another summer on the water.
'Most importantly, check all your safety equipment. Are the lifejackets due for servicing? Check your flares and EPIRBS if you’re carrying them and replace your torch batteries. This equipment could save your life.'
Skippers should always Log On with their nearest MRNSW unit whenever they head out on the water and Log Off when they return so someone responsible knows where they’re headed and when they’re safely back on shore. If a boater does not Log Off as scheduled, MRNSW volunteers can start work to locate them.
To find your nearest MRNSW unit, visit the Marine Rescue website