Boating with friends and family
Do you remember your first driving lesson in a car? How unfamiliar the environment was, how unusual the control of the clutch was and the concentration you had to put into changing gears to begin with? Then, after a while, it all became more natural and you stopped thinking about the logistics of doing it and just did it.
There are many things we do, like riding a bike or driving a boat which, after time, seem to come automatically. We don’t need to consciously think about the actions we take.
But what about people unfamiliar with boating or the marine environment? As summer nears the chances are you’ll be out on the water more often and there will be more opportunities to take your family and friends out too. Some of them may be unfamiliar with boating, so you need to put yourself in their shoes when explaining about safety on-board and on the water.
You’re the Skipper – You’re Responsible
As a skipper you’re responsible for the safety of your vessel and the people on board. Preparation and awareness are two of the most important elements of safe and responsible boating. As skipper, take time to ensure the boat is ready and also spend time to brief your passengers on safety issues.
Among other things, it’s a good idea to brief everyone on-board your vessel about the various safety equipment and how to use it.
Explain that lifejackets save lives and that a lifejacket will not save your life if you’re not wearing it. As skipper, you must carry a lifejacket for every person on board. But it’s no use just having the lifejackets on board, make sure you and your passengers wear them.
In NSW you must wear a lifejacket in situations of heightened risk such as in a small vessel up to 4.8m long, when boating alone, at night, on open (ocean) waters and on alpine waters. And of course, children under the age of 12 must wear a lifejacket in boats up to 4.8m. For people with limited experience on the water or who are unfamiliar with lifejackets, show them how to fit their lifejacket properly and make sure they know what to do in the event of an emergency.
Recent tragic events have highlighted the need to wear lifejackets – they save lives. Even if you are in a boating situation where the wearing of lifejackets is not compulsory, you should ensure that weak swimmers wear a lifejacket.
Children need to be watched carefully. Be especially careful not to allow children to be on the bow or to sit with legs dangling over the side while under power.
Being prop aware
Remind your passengers to be prop aware. Tell them that boat propellers pose a risk that is easily ignored because they are under the water, ‘out of sight and out of mind.’ A strike from a spinning propeller can cause serious injury or even death.
Make sure that the prop area is all clear before starting the engine, remind your passengers to keep all arms and legs inside the boat, keep a proper lookout especially when near swimmers and wear a kill-switch lanyard when boating alone.
Checking the weather
As skipper, you should always check the weather before and during boating. If it looks dicey, don’t go out. If it starts to turn bad, head straight for shelter. A marine radio helps you keep in touch with weather updates. Learn to understand and read weather patterns, the wind, waves and the limits of your craft.
Conditions on the water can change in the blink of an eye. The wind might pick up, wave size might increase and the current may change. As skipper you’re responsible for making sure a boat travels at a safe speed. If in doubt, slow down to suit the conditions.
By taking such precautions, a day out on the water can be a wonderful and enjoyable experience – and you, your family and friends will return home safe.
For more information about safe boating visit www.maritime.nsw.gov.au or call the info line 13 12 56.