Editorial: 'She'll be right' spells disaster

By Roger Moroney

One on my earliest memories of growing up on the Marine Parade beachfront is that of a dinghy, with three blokes aboard, toppling back after falling victim to a rolling breaker they must have figured they could crest.

These were three local characters who also lived on the beachfront and pretty well spent every spare moment they had either casting lines from the shore or leaving the shore altogether to cast lines and nets out in the deeper water.

We'd see them all the time and it was clear they knew their sea well, for there were days when even a rolling sea borne by a distant easterly storm in the Pacific would not dissuade them from attaching the oars and cutting the bait.

But on that day it all went very wrong. They and their gear spilled up and over, the boat making a terrible smacking sound as it struck the surface after it's backward flip.

They had only been about 20 metres from shore, so getting back in wasn't a drama, and to their credit they also managed to drag the upturned boat back through the breakers.

One of them lost his hat and his sandals, and they lost their gear and an oar.

They stood there on the beach and after a while laughed it off before dragging the boat up the beach and back across the road.

Had they capsized further out they would have also laughed it off later as they had modest but obviously effective life jackets on and never went out in offshore westerlies. They knew the sea, and their abilities, well.

Two of them have long since "crossed the bar" but were they still with us they would be shaking their heads about recent incidents where people have gone to sea under-equipped, under-prepared and as a result under threat of losing their lives.

And, of course, some have.

Last weekend a failed engine caused an inflatable boat to drift 5km offshore down in southern Hawke's Bay as northwesterly offshore winds raged.

The three aboard had no lifejackets, no anchor, no radio, no cellphone or locator beacon.

Police were rightly left shaking their heads, and like the rescued trio, grateful someone on shore at the isolated beach had spotted them in distress.

It is remarkable, and concerning, that it continues to happen.

As one of the police crew said, it costs money to get all the appropriate safety gear sorted, and if it can't be done then just don't go out.

"After all, what cost is a life?" he added.

That statement should be enough to make all boaties stop and reflect, but for too many I fear it is eclipsed by a more common Kiwi theme.

"She'll be right."

Tragically, before the end of this hot summer is out, and unless there is a massive mindset swing, I fear that for some "she won't be right".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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