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.
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.
BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT
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
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.boatingeducation.org.nz
...when something goes wrong on your boat, it will be at the worst possible time. It’s called Sod’s Law.