Don’t miss the boat – wear your lifejacket
Don’t miss the boat – wear your lifejacket
About one in four New Zealanders owns or uses a boat, but Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says too many boaties are risking their lives by not taking steps to stay safe on board.
As thousands of people celebrate the return of the warmer weather by launching their boats at Labour weekend, MNZ is urging boaties to wear their lifejackets at all times on the water.
MNZ is working closely with the National Pleasure Boat Safety Forum – which includes Coastguard, Water Safety New Zealand and New Zealand Search and Rescue – to reduce the death toll from boating accidents.
Fourteen people died in recreational boating accidents in New Zealand waters last year, and by the end of September this year a further 11 people had died. MNZ’s Education and Communications Manager, Pania Shingleton, says three-quarters of those deaths may have been avoided had basic steps – like wearing lifejackets – been taken.
Pania says more people are now taking steps to stay safe on the water, but a sizeable proportion of boaties still think they’re immune from danger and continue to ignore the warnings.
By now, she says, wearing a lifejacket, knowing the weather, carrying two communications devices and avoiding alcohol should be normal behaviour for boaties. But she says MNZ’s new research shows that certain groups of boaties don’t take precautions and don’t recognise that their behaviour is putting themselves and others at risk.
Pania says the biggest concern is the number of boaties who don’t make a habit of wearing a lifejacket whenever they’re boating. “All of our research shows that people who wear lifejackets on the water are much more likely to survive if something goes wrong,” she says. “Many of those who die in recreational boating accidents each year – especially men aged 40 and over – could have been saved had they been wearing a lifejacket.”
Recent research into attitudes and behaviour has found that 70 percent of recreational boaties wear a lifejacket at all times on the water. Slightly more than half of boaties in larger (4m-6m) power boats habitually wear a lifejacket, and fewer than half make sure their adult passengers wear a lifejacket. For its summer boating safety campaign, MNZ is using the results of its research to target the groups that don’t wear lifejackets.
For more information, go to our website: www.maritimenz.govt.nz/lifejackets
heading out – tips for safe summer
• Get your engine serviced. Schedule an annual service and make regular visual checks.
• Change your fuel. If your boat has been out of the water for a while, replace old fuel with clean, fresh fuel. Never assume your trip will run according to plan – always plan to use a third of your fuel for the trip out, a third for the trip back, and have a third in reserve for anything unexpected.
• Give your boat a good once-over. Start in one place and work your way around the boat, checking inside and out, to make sure everything is in good working order. If you find anything damaged or worn, repair it properly or replace it.
• Check your lifejackets. Are the lifejackets still the correct size (especially for children) and in good condition? A crotch strap is recommended for all lifejackets, especially children’s, and can easily be retrofitted. Are your lifejackets suitable for the type of boating you do? If you have an inflatable lifejacket, make sure it’s checked and serviced, and regularly check that the gas cylinder is properly secured and not corroded. And remember: lifejackets are only useful when worn!
• Check your equipment. Make sure all the equipment on your boat is in good working order and you have everything you need. Check expiry dates on flares and fire extinguishers, and replace them if they’re out of date. Have the boat’s battery professionally checked so that it will be able to operate all electric equipment and have enough strength to start the motor. After lying idle over winter, batteries can give a start or two before failing completely. Check and replace batteries on portable equipment such as torches, radios and your GPS. Make sure your distress beacon’s registration is up to date.
• Think about your emergency plan. Look at where your safety equipment is stored. Can you access it easily in an emergency or after a capsize? Put together a floating ‘grab bag’ that contains all the emergency gear you will need if your boat capsizes.
• Make sure someone else knows how to operate the boat if the skipper can’t. Before you go out, brief your crew or passengers on what to do if things go wrong and practice different scenarios – be mentally prepared for the unexpected.
On the water – tips for staying
• Wear your lifejacket or PFD. Maritime law requires ALL skippers to carry enough lifejackets of the right size for everyone on board. Lifejackets must also be worn in any situation where there is an increased risk to safety. (Some regions also have bylaws in place making it compulsory for lifejackets to be worn in certain circumstances, so check with your regional council.)
• Check the marine weather forecast before you go. And keep checking the forecast while you are out, using VHF channel 16 or NowCasting on channel 21–23. If in doubt, don’t go out.
• Carry at least two reliable forms of marine communication that will work when wet. A distress beacon (EPIRB or PLB) and a handheld, waterproof marine VHF radio are the most reliable. Flares (red handheld, orange smoke and red parachute or rocket) are a useful way to signal you need help. Don’t reply on a cellphone as your only form of communication, but if you carry one, keep it inside a re-sealable plastic bag.
• Don’t go overboard on alcohol. Alcohol impairs judgement and balance, and its effects are exaggerated on the water. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of hypothermia and will reduce your survival time if you end up in the water.
• Make a trip report. Let someone responsible know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
• Be considerate to other water users. Keep a lookout, stick to safe speeds and be patient, so that everyone can enjoy the water.
your skills – bite-size lessons
Check out boating safety information from your computer, tablet or cellphone. Short clips with key safety messages are now available on YouTube, covering topics such as navigation lights, rules of the road on the water, VHF radio, launching and retrieving your boat, and buoys and beacons.
To visit, go to www.youtube.com/user/boatsafetyinnz.
For more information about safety on the water, go to our website: www.maritimenz.govt.nz/recreational-boating
You are welcome to use the attached graphics to accompany your stories about recreational boating safety.