Coastguard makes waves at awards
Learning to be safe at sea is proving a popular family pasttime in Picton.
It’s also an award-winner, with Coastguard Marlborough sailing off with four gongs at the recent National Coastguard Awards of Excellence, including one for their popular boating safety workshops.
There were seven award categories, and Marlborough’s David St John took three of them individually, including the supreme award of Hutchwilco Coastguard Volunteer of the Year.
St John said he was particularly pleased with the Community Relations Activity of the Year award, which he and his crew won for their safety workshops - now completed by more than 200 boaties since it was set up a year ago.
‘‘We need to recognise a few others for this,’’ St John said. ‘‘Luke Grogan [Marlborough Harbourmaster] and Julie Moorhouse did a lot of work designing the course content, making the application for funding and administering the course.’’
He said the national regulator ‘‘for all things marine’’, Maritime New Zealand, should also be thanked for stumping up the money to keep the course operating. St John said the course was unique in that it attracted families.
‘‘Thanks to Maritime New Zealand it’s a free course and we can also offer a free lunch. Courses like this elsewhere cost at least $200 which is too much for famil- ies,’’ St John said.
About a quarter of the participants had been in family groups, and St John said keeping the course to a single day, and at no cost, was a winner.
‘‘We get husbands, wives, kids, and we keep a strong boating component so they get out on the water. This type of course is usually for skippers and the like, so we reach a different demo- graphic,’’ St John said.
‘‘The feedback is great. One person said ‘I didn’t know how much I didn’t know’ which is encouraging. We don’t get too heavy and hard into anything, so that helps keep the kids interested, and we engage the kids and involve them in activities, like inflating the lifejackets.
‘‘Most kids are smart and their uptake is good. We cover lots of stuff and that also holds their attention.’’
St John said participants appreciated the local knowledge. ‘‘It’s tailored to the area and risks associated with here; volatile weather, common trouble spots like some of the corners on bays.’’
Navigating shipping lanes was also a key ingredient, with 18 to 20 large ships passing through Queen Charlotte Sound every day. The practical boating component took people out on the water on coastguard rescue boats for a firsthand look at some of the risks.
‘‘We also tailor it to people on the day. If we get a lot of trailer boat owners we’ll focus on that, or yachts - we match it to the class on the day,’’ St John said.
St John also won the Century Yuasa Rescue Volunteer of the Year and played a key role in a fourth with Coastguard Marlborough winning Unit of the Year.
There are 2052 coastguard volunteers across the country and they rescued 2702 people last year.
Coastguard Marlborough’s Janette St John helps a trainee into his life jacket at the popular boating safety workshop held at Picton.