Safer Boat­ing with Coast­guard

Ac­cept your lim­i­ta­tions.

Boating NZ - - Contents -

Here’s a quick snap­shot of the 2017 recre­ational boatie age pro­file (source: MNZ Recre­ational Boat­ing Sur­vey). For sail­boats 64 per­cent were over 55; power­boats (6m or less) 41 per­cent were over 55, and for dinghies, 46 per­cent were over 55. It is es­ti­mated that between 55 and 60 per­cent were male.

If you then look at the pre­ventable drown­ing stats you’ll see that it’s males over the age of 65 who are overly-rep­re­sented. Wa­ter Safety New Zealand re­search in­di­cates that pre­ventable drown­ing deaths for the over-65s dou­bled between 2016 and 2017.

There are many pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions for why older males fea­ture more promi­nently in drown­ing sta­tis­tics. One sug­ges­tion is that older males grew up in a so­ci­ety where risk­tak­ing was nor­malised and that they con­tinue with this pat­tern of be­hav­iour through­out their life.

There may be some truth to this – but for over 25 years this cat­e­gory of older males has con­tin­ued to be over-rep­re­sented. It’s dif­fi­cult to sug­gest which par­tic­u­lar decades (1930s, 40s or 50s?) led to this in­grained risk-taking be­hav­iour. If this ex­pla­na­tion was to hold true, at some stage we should see a de­cline in fa­tal­i­ties as that par­tic­u­lar co­hort ‘dies out’.

Per­haps a more plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion is that as we get more fa­mil­iar with our en­vi­ron­ment we fail to recog­nise the risks – in short we become com­pla­cent. It’s the “if-it-hasn’t-hap­pened-tome-yet-it-will-never-hap­pen-to-me” mind-set. We prob­a­bly all know some­one with this at­ti­tude. And great ef­fort is ex­pended to drive be­havioural change (e.g., don’t-drink-and-drive cam­paigns and wear-your-life­jacket).

There may be a third ex­pla­na­tion which is also an un­der­es­ti­mated cause – pos­si­bly because it re­quires us to swal­low our pride and ad­mit it – that we’re not as young and ag­ile as we used to be. As we age our mus­cu­lar strength and en­durance di­min­ishes marginally each year, our bal­ance can be af­fected and we’re more likely to suf­fer a fall – and if we do our bones are more brit­tle.

Iron­i­cally, as we age it’s more likely we’ll have the in­come and time to go boat­ing – and there’s no rea­son we shouldn’t. But just be well-pre­pared and don’t over-es­ti­mate your phys­i­cal abil­ity.

Here’s a great ex­am­ple of what we’re talk­ing about – with a favourable out­come.

Len and Heather Dil­lon were out in the Hau­raki Gulf on a late au­tumn af­ter­noon when the un­think­able hap­pened. While Heather was mak­ing a cup of tea in the gal­ley, 79-year-old Len tripped and fell into the wa­ter. He was tend­ing to his and Heather’s fish­ing rods which both had fish on them.

He grabbed onto the duck­board which was all that stopped him from being swept away in the strong cur­rent. He tried to get out of the wa­ter twice but wear­ing heavy jeans and boots he knew all he would do was prob­a­bly “ac­ti­vate a crook heart and get my­self all stressed.”

The lad­der he could have climbed on to seized up and couldn’t be pulled down and the ra­dio was mal­func­tion­ing. Luck­ily Heather was able to call Coast­guard on her mo­bile, with the North Shore unit reach­ing Len in the nick of time.

In no way are we sug­gest­ing and that Len and Heather were fool­hardy. Their story, which they have kindly shared – shows how eas­ily the un­ex­pected can hap­pen.

Per­haps it’s time to give up the ego and put steps in place to counter the in­evitable ef­fects of ag­ing. You can’t beat the phys­i­o­log­i­cal de­cline but you can en­joy qual­ity boat­ing by being well-pre­pared and en­sur­ing you fol­low the ba­sic safely guide­lines when head­ing out.

Tell some­one where you’re go­ing, wear your life­jacket, have MOB plans in place, and en­sure you can call the res­cue au­thor­i­ties by hav­ing at least two forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. BNZ we age it’s more likely we’ll have the in­come and time to go boat­ing – and there’s no rea­son we shouldn’t.

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