Maritime NZ Director, Keith Manch, said each year about 19 or 20 recreational boaties die on the water, with there being a sudden spike in fatal accidents at the end of the year.

What we think happens is boaties get back on the water and discover, too late, something is wrong with their boat or gear and they are out of practice. We don’t want that happening this year. We urge boaties, before you go out, check your boat and prep your gear. Make sure it is all okay, and know the rules and what you need to do. On the water, the two things that save the most lives are, without a doubt, wearing your lifejacket and having two waterproof ways to call for help. Lifejackets have saved countless lives, but if you can’t call for help then no one can rescue you and hypothermia becomes a real risk,

...Mr Manch explained.

Additionally, for the first time, Maritime NZ is considering its advertising campaign on marine VHF radio, as only one in four boaties is carrying a VHF radio, he added.

If you are boating on the coast get a VHF radio and do Coastguard Boating Education’s online VHF course. It’s simple and will help you get the most out of your VHF radio. VHF radio really is your rescue network at sea – you can talk to other boaties and commercial vessels near you, and the maritime distress channel 16 is monitored 24/7 by Maritime Radio. However, things can go wrong so always have a back-up and take two waterproof ways to call for help.

Other options, in addition to VHF radio, include distress beacons (also known as PLBs and EPIRBs), flares and a cellphone but it must be in a waterproof bag.

Moreover, Maritime NZ emphasizes on the need for boaters to get rid of all kapok-filled lifejackets, which are unsafe and cause a person to sink. They should be replaced and destroyed. Kapok is a plant fibre – it looks like cotton – and has not been used in lifejackets for at least 30 years because it can absorb water.

Safer boating code

Maritime NZ has provided five simple precautions for boaters:

  • Wear your lifejacket
  • Take two waterproof ways to call for help
  • Check the marine weather forecast
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Be a responsible skipper.

NZ recreational boating in numbers

  • 1.5 million Kiwis were involved in recreational boating last summer
  • lifejacket wearing behaviour amongst recreational boaties is steady at about 75% wearing all or most of the time on the water
  • two-thirds of fatalities might have been avoided if lifejackets had been worn
  • only one in four (25%) take a marine VHF radio
  • in 59% of fatal boating accidents inadequate communications were on board (inadequate communications cannot be said to have caused the deaths but it was an added risk that makes rescue harder)