Five simple tips to stay safe at sea

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COAST: Henry van Tuel says the Bay coastline has very few safe havens.
COAST: Henry van Tuel says the Bay coastline has very few safe havens.

Henry van Tuel has been with Coastguard Hawke's Bay since November 2007. He had previously spent six years with Coastguard Wellington from 1991 to 1999. He crews on rescue missions as well as working with the incident management team where he helps plan local searches and is currently the vice president of Coastguard New Zealand. He loves the sea, and being personally challenged to improve and is a great believer in doing something to support the local community. "Coastguard helps me to do all that and more while crewing with a great bunch of people in a great part of New Zealand - who could ask for more?" We put five questions to Mr van Tuel about the service.

1 Does the Hawke's Bay coastline have any unique and potentially challenging aspects for boaties?

There are three factors in particular which make Hawke's Bay a potentially challenging area for boaties. The coastline has very few safe havens should the weather turn, a number of popular fishing spots are well off shore and finally the size of the bay means that boaties who are travelling from say Auckland to Wellington are well off shore should they get into difficulties.

We would average one or two tows a year from 40 nautical miles offshore.

2 What are the main rules of safety for people taking to the sea?

Coastguard supports five simple safety rules (1) Skipper Responsibility - the skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone on board and the safe operation of the boat so stay within the limits of your boat and your experience (2) Communications - Take two separate waterproof ways of communicating so we can help if you get into difficulties (3) Life jackets - wearing a lifejacket increases your survival time in the water (4) Marine Weather - The marine weather can be highly unpredictable, check the marine forecast before you go. Local marine forecasts are broadcast continually on vhf channel 21 (5) Avoid alcohol - safe boating and alcohol do not mix.

3 What does Coastguard offer in terms of increasing safety for boaties?

In addition to our search and rescue service Coastguard Hawke's Bay provides a free 24/7 trip reporting service on vhf channel 82, continuous wind speed and direction updates from five local weather stations on vhf channel 21 - we also carry out boat safety equipment checks on request.

Our website www.hawkesbaycoastguard.co.nz has links to safety information, weather, tides and boating education courses. Locally, Coastguard Boating Education provides a wide range of marine education courses such as Day Skipper and Boatmaster.

4 Alcohol can lead to trouble on the roads. Does that also apply to the sea and could there be some form of testing or checking in the future?

In terms of alcohol in 2004 a Maritime New Zealand report concluded that alcohol was a prime factor in 15 per cent of fatal boating accidents and contributed to a further 15 per cent of other accidents. Because a boat skipper is ultimately responsible for the vessel and all of those onboard their decision making should not be impaired by alcohol, or other substances.

5 What is the largest vessel HB Coastguard has gone to assist, and the smallest?

We have assisted a wide range of vessels ranging from several 17m yachts and powerboats down to canoeists and on one occasion no boat when a whitebaiter, in a lifejacket, was swept out to sea from a river mouth.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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