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Lives At Risk During West Coast Boat Launchings

22 December, 2008

Lives At Risk During West Coast Boat Launchings

Inexperienced and overconfident boaties are risking their lives launching and retrieving their vessels on Kaipara’s treacherous West Coast beaches, worried officials say.

The Northland Regional Council says over the past year there have been a dozen reported incidents where people have rolled – or lost control of – four to six metre vessels during launching or retrieval in the Baylys Beach/Kaipara coast area.

Jim Lyle, the Council’s Deputy Harbourmaster, says it is just pure luck that nobody has been seriously injured or drowned yet.

“In most of these cases the vessels were severely damaged, some occurred while children were aboard and in far too many cases people were not wearing lifejackets.

“People need to remember that launching and retrieving your vessel on West Coast beaches, particularly around Baylys and Ripiro Beaches, carries inherent risks.”

Mr Lyle suspects there have also been many similar incidents that have not been reported.

He says an increasing number of incidents involving “inexperienced and/or unprepared and overconfident boat owners” mean it is only a matter of time before lives are lost unnecessarily.

He says local knowledge is essential and launching vessels into the west coast surf is a job for experienced people only.

“This does not just mean a person experienced in boating, but a person experienced in actually launching and returning in these conditions.

“If you do not know the area, ask advice and watch the locals before even considering launching. Watch the surf for a period prior to launching, to gain an understanding of where the danger spots are, and where it is safer to launch and return.”

He says it’s both a legal and commonsense requirement that lifejackets are worn by everyone on board.

“This is a legal requirement in rough waters. Skippers need to remember that if someone on their vessel drowns - and was not wearing a correctly fitting lifejacket as warranted by the dangerous situation - the skipper will be held responsible.”

Mr Lyle says boats also need to be maintained in top condition with their engines properly serviced and checked before launching.

“All loose gear should be secured. Ensure you have the essentials; communication equipment, bailing system (ensure you have a bucket as well), an anchor, alternative power (oars or paddles), nav lights and a torch if going out after dark.”

Mr Lyle says boats need to carry at least two means of communication but three if going more than two miles offshore. These can include a VHF radio, flares, locator beacon or a cellphone and at least one these must be able to be used if it has been submerged…for example, a waterproof radio or by using a sealable waterproof bag for the VHF or cellphone.

Boaties need to tell someone responsible where they will be going and when they’ll be back so the alarm can be raised if necessary. Similarly, make a trip report to North Kaipara Coastguard Radio on VHF Channel 66 before leaving and again on your return.

“If you’re heading north of Maunganui Bluff (about 40km north-west of Dargaville) contact Hokianga Coastguard on VHF Channel 82.

“Lastly, check the weather, and if in doubt, don’t go.”

Mr Lyle says if anyone is unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident while launching or retrieving a boat, it’s vital that all the details are reported to the Northland Regional Council.

“This enables resources to be allocated where accidents happen and also gives others the opportunity to learn from your mistakes.”

Mr Lyle says details of accident reporting can be found by searching for ‘maritime forms, accident reporting’ on the Council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz


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