A shiny new boat on a trailer behind a shiny, new-looking four-wheel-drive pulled up at the launching ramp on Auckland’s waterfront drive, backed down to the water and the driver got out and proceeded to unhitch the trailer from the towball. When asked what he thought he was doing the gentleman, who obviously came from another country, explained in broken English and hand signals that he was launching his boat – while still connected to the trailer. It was pointd out to him that this was not a good idea, and the correct procedure was demonstrated.
While this is an extreme example, it does illustrate what can happen when inexperience, ignorance and boats come together. Imagine what chaos such a newcomer to boating could cause out on the water.
Boating disaster waiting to happen
Anybody with a big enough cheque book can start out in boating with a five-million-dollar gin palace if they wish and there is no legal requirement to learn the basics of boating. But any sensible person will undertake one of the many courses available through Coastguard Boating Education before heading out onto the water. And the skipper of a boat is legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all people on board; and the skipper is also responsible for complying with the relevant rules and regulations. There are serious penalties and fines for transgressing.
Once, when discussing the question of compulsory marine licensing, a senior official of the then Marine Department explained that in Australia, where a license is needed for owning a boat, the accident and fatality rates were the same as in New Zealand (so many per thousand boats) where no license was required. He added that the official approach was to put the emphasis on education, rather than more red tape.
The sea can be a busy place, as can some lakes over popular holiday periods, and it is not just power boats that make it so – there are often large and small sail boats, and other craft like jet skis and paddle boards.
The number of kayaks and canoes on the water has exploded as these craft become more popular both for sightseeing and for fishing. Some estimates put their number at close to 100,000. But they can be hard to see on the water, particularly in low light or choppy conditions or when you are heading into the setting sun. The onus is on the power boat to avoid kayaks, but in a collision the kayaker is like a cyclist taking on a car. The paddlers can help by wearing bright clothes and displaying a flag, and travelling in groups.
Obviously life jackets are standard equipment in such craft, and going out in a small boat of any type and not wearing a lifejacket is like not wearing a seat belt in your car.
The rules require lifejackets of the correct size for every person on a boat, and in craft under six metres they should be worn unless the skipper decides it is not necessary.
Just as on the road speed is a major factor. Boat speed should always be adjusted to the conditions. Slow down in poor weather or fog, and a proper lookout should be kept at all times. Nothing beats a pair of eyes scanning the water ahead no matter how sophisticated the electronics on the dashboard.
Weather forecasts should always be updated, and at least two means of communication are important. A marine VHF radio and a cellphone in a waterproof cover are a good start, and an EPIRB is also recommended. It is up to the skipper to have a plan of action of things go wrong. For example, can somebody else drive the boat is the skipper is incapacitated?
Basically, power always give way to craft with no engine. And there are also some basic safety rules, including always tell a person ashore where you are going, how many people you have on board and when you expect to return.
Make a trip report and stay in contact with Maritime Radio or the local Coastguard. It is in everyone’s interest to join Coastguard.
Avoid alcohol, and operate within the speed limits – up to five knots within 200 metres of shore or any boat displaying a dive flag, and 50 metres of any other craft or swimmer. When two boats meet one boat has the right of way. Make your intentions clear and always try to pass behind the other boat. If in doubt slow down or stop. Keep to starboard (“drive on the right”) in channels, and a boat overtaking must keep clear of the boat it is passing.
Fishing on the Rotorua lakes improved over the full moon phase a week ago, in spite of the common belief that trout do not feed during the full moon. One party of three anglers brought in five nice fish from Lake Tarawera on the day of the full moon, and they caught them between 11am and 2pm while deep trolling at 20 metres. Settled weather and rising water temperatures should see fishing improve on the lakes, and harling at dawn and dusk has been quite productive.
Bite times are 8.30am and 8.55pm tomorrow and 9.20am and 9.50pm on Sunday.
Tip of the week
Remember that the tide will turn every six hours and a harbour entrance or river mouth crossing may be quite benign when leaving, but when the tide turns and the outgoing current collides with incoming swells the conditions will change dramatically. This also applies to stretches of water like the notorious Motuihe Channel between Rangitoto and Motuihe Islands in Auckland. When the tidal current is running the same way as the wind it can be deceptively calm, but on large tides of over three metres and a strong wind when they oppose each other the surface will be shattered into a nasty, short chop. Many boaties have discovered this phenomenon – at their cost. These are the sort of situations, like bar crossings, where wearing lifejackets is important.