Safer Boat­ing with Coast­guard

A day out on the wa­ter can turn into a dis­as­ter at the drop of a hat – which is why you need to be pre­pared, al­ways.

Boating NZ - - Contents -

You never know when things will turn to cus­tard – but you can pretty much guar­an­tee that when some­thing goes wrong on your boat, it will be at the worst pos­si­ble time. It’s called Sod’s Law.

This is ex­actly what hap­pened to Paul – a yachtie on his way from Auck­land to Dunedin. Things started out fine, but as he en­tered the Bay of Plenty the sea started churn­ing, and next thing he knew his steer­ing sud­denly failed – 70km from shore.

Paul needed help ur­gently. He trig­gered his res­cue bea­con (EPIRB), and hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres away the Res­cue Co­or­di­na­tion Cen­tre picked up his dis­tress call and raised the alarm. Coast­guard Tau­ranga set out im­me­di­ately and kept in con­tact with Paul via his VHF ra­dio.

It took the crew three-and-a-half hours of painstak­ing nav­i­ga­tion in the pitch black to find Paul and his yacht. With­out his res­cue bea­con and the abil­ity to con­tin­u­ally com­mu­ni­cate his po­si­tion via VHF, it’s un­likely Paul would have sur­vived.

The les­son here, and one of the five rules of the Boat­ing Safety Code, is to al­ways carry two forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. This is the best way to en­sure that – if you’re in trou­ble on the wa­ter – some­one will be there to help you.

So whether you’re head­ing out on your boat, yacht, or kayak, here are the key things to do to stay in touch and call for help if you need it.


The first thing to do is tell some­one on shore where you are go­ing and when you in­tend to re­turn. You should also let them know when they should raise the alarm if they haven’t heard from you.

Se­condly, log a Trip Re­port (TR). A TR can be logged with Coast­guard Ra­dio from your VHF ra­dio or cell phone. When lodg­ing a TR you’ll be asked for your boat’s name and call sign, where you plan to go, the num­ber of peo­ple on board, and when you plan to ar­rive or re­turn.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber to close your TR when you’ve ar­rived at your des­ti­na­tion. While fail­ing to close a TR will NOT ini­ti­ate a search, it will help res­cue teams like Coast­guard know where to start look­ing and plan the res­cue.


Call­ing for help can be done by VHF ra­dio, cell­phone, EPIRB, whis­tle, dis­tress flares and other means. Tak­ing your cell­phone with you on the boat is a good idea, but make sure to keep it in a wa­ter­proof bag. Re­mem­ber there is no guar­an­tee that you will be within cell­phone range, so an­other form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, such as a VHF ra­dio, is vi­tal.

A boat­ing course such as Day Skip­per, Boat­mas­ter or Sea Sur­vival will teach you what to do in an emer­gency, and how to call for help. A VHF Course will teach you how to op­er­ate a VHF ra­dio cor­rectly, how to ra­dio for as­sis­tance, and what to do should you hear a dis­tress call from an­other boat. You can find out more about these cour­ses at www.boat­inge­d­u­ca­

...when some­thing goes wrong on your boat, it will be at the worst pos­si­ble time. It’s called Sod’s Law.

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