Safer Boating with Coastguard
Boating should be a fun, family activity – but it can become a source of anxiety and frayed nerves. A visit to a busy boat ramp or marina often provides clues to how the day might pan out. It’s hard to have fun when arguing about launching techniques or who was responsible for buying ice.
Alot of pre-planning goes into a boating trip and at the start of the season, or when preparing for the Christmas cruise, your focus should be on checking that everything’s ship-shape. As the skipper, you obviously need to ensure that your boat’s appropriately equipped and ready for any eventuality. What’s also important is that you include your crew in the process of getting the boat ready: you shouldn’t be the only one who knows how to operate the boat. It might be unreasonable to expect someone else to proficiently berth the boat back at the marina or winch it on to the trailer, but should something happen to you, it’s a good idea that other crew members know how to call for assistance and how to keep the boat safe.
Ensuring that your crew is aware of the plan-for-the-day makes sense – if they know where they are going and what the conditions are
likely to be, they’re more likely to take appropriate clothing and food/water.
Most importantly, they’ll be more relaxed and will have a better day out. Keeping people in the dark about what’s happening might be a good plot for a reality TV programme but it certainly doesn’t help people feel included and part of the ‘team’. It’s also a good idea to show crew the basics of operating the boat – think about what is important for them to know.
Don’t expect crew to remember too much information delivered in one go. Think about a few simple flow diagrams or a drawing of the location of the safety equipment on the boat. A good example of this is the Radio Distress sticker that guides you through the procedure for making a call.
Informed and involved crew can help you in the unlikely event of an incident, providing greater resources and perhaps preventing a situation escalating. There’s also a measure of plain old self-interest here: what would you like them to do if you became incapacitated?
Do they know where the fire extinguishers are? Could they put out a call on the VHF radio and give the boat’s position? What actions would you want them to take if you fell overboard?
These valuable skills will help crew feel more involved, increase their confidence, and hopefully lead to many more enjoyable days out on the water. As a skipper it’s also rewarding to see people pick up new skills and gain competence. Not all of us are born teachers – if you’re not confident yourself or struggle to explain things, think about doing a boating education course or seeking advice from a more experienced and knowledgeable boatie.
Going out on the water can be stressful for the skipper, so anything you do to make life easier is a winner for both you and your crew. One of the great things about boating is that there’s always something new to learn.
Communication with your crew is a great aid to safety – be prepared, know the plan and have fun. BNZ
Don’t expect crew to remember too much information delivered in one go.