Editorial: Boaties need to take care

By Craig Cooper

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You could argue it's one of the things that makes this country great.

In America, under that category, you'll find "the right to bear arms".

In New Zealand, we have "the right to drive a boat".

The fact that pretty much anyone can get behind the wheel of a boat, no licence or training required, and hoon about Northland's waters has always intrigued me.

As a youngster I was lucky enough to be exposed to boating, and learned how to negotiate Snake Bank in Whangarei Harbour, or to be wary of the rock at the Hen and Chicks that is sometimes hidden just below the surface of the water. On occasion, I've been with skippers who haven't known where Snake Bank was, and ended up on the floor of the boat after a sudden stop. It amazes me that these hazards are often discovered, literally, by accident.

So often, these potentially lifesaving titbits of information are well known as local knowledge, but don't get passed out publicly.

Based on what I've seen this summer, not everyone is aware of some of the more basic rules of boating. The Northland Regional Council's website is well worth a look - and not just for novices. Even those boaties that consider themselves experienced should take a look.

Did you know the speed limit within 200m of the shore or a diving flag (or 50m of another boat) is five knots - or walking speed. There is an excellent reminder that if you are water skiing or towing a sea biscuit, it takes "three to ski" - a driver, the person being towed and a "spotter", someone on safety watch facing the skier.

Did you also know that when two powers boats are approaching head on, each boat must move to the right (the opposite of the land rule obviously).

You also give way to the person on your right (starboard), if a vessel is coming from that direction. And when you're in a channel, regardless of where it's coming from, if it's a ship then a smaller craft is always giving way. For more information on safe boating, go to www.nrc.govt.nz/safeboating

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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