By Coastguard education manager Darren Arthur
We're on the uphill slope towards summer - days are getting longer and, for those able to escape the backyard chores, eyes are going towards fishing rods and tackle boxes with thoughts of getting back amongst the fish.
Coastguard volunteers are also busy gearing up for another full-on boating season. In fact, over October alone, the Coastguard Operations Centre handled over 7,700 VHF radio calls (including trip reports, bar crossing reports and calls for assistance) and assisted at 164 incidents – and that's before the best of the summer weather!
This time of year is when preparation can make all the difference; after all, many of those requests for assistance were for simple mechanical or electrical issues. Has the boat been serviced with extra attention being paid to batteries, the electrics and ensuring the fuel isn't stale or contaminated? Is all your safety gear in good nick?
Because it's often the simple things that get missed, before you head out for the boat ramp, make sure you tick off these key things from our simple checklist:
You've got the bait and the fishing gear sorted – but what about the boat itself?
• Are the bungs in and secure?
• Have you got enough fuel? (Remember the 'thirds' rule: 1/3 fuel to get there, 1/3 to get back, 1/3 in reserve)
• Have you done a walk around to make sure no damage has occurred since you last used your boat?
• Batteries charged and ready to go? (Check your batteries are in good nick too, so they charge properly)
• Make sure your engine is in neutral, ignition key is in position, and that the engine starts
• Lights, radio and pumps all working as they should?
Make sure you've got all your safety gear on board, and that it's in good condition. A few bucks spent making sure you've got the right gear could end up saving your life!
• Got enough lifejackets for everyone on board? When the unexpected happens out on the water, it often happens really quickly. That's why wearing your lifejacket, especially in boats less that 6m, can make all the difference
• Have you had your inflatable lifejackets serviced recently? (A basic service takes only a few minutes. Check out a handy video here: http://bit.ly/LifejacketServicing
• Have you got at least two forms of waterproof communication on board?
- Cellphone in a waterproof bag
- Working VHF radio
- EPIRB or personal locator beacon
- Distress flares
• Have you checked the weather forecast?
• Is your Coastguard Membership up-to-date? Check your membership card, or call us on 0800 BOATIE to get up to date!
• Make a Trip Report to Coastguard on your local VHF channel, or a Bar Crossing Report if you're planning to go over one of the region's bars. The information you give us can help us find you if you're reported overdue.
If your lifejacket is past it's best, check out the Coastguard Old4New Lifejacket Upgrade – trade in your old or worn lifejacket (no matter the condition) for a hefty discount on a new Hutchwilco lifejacket. The Old4New van will be visiting boat ramps across the country from December 2 – visit www.old4new.nz for more.
Easily overlooked, but you don't want to get pulled over on the way to the boat ramp – or have your boat damaged because of the trailer.
• Are your WoF and registration up to date?
• Tyres looking good after a long winter?
• Are your trailer lights working?
• Is the winch working fine?
• Safety chain secure? Tie downs securely in place?
• Prop flag in place?
By getting your boat and your skills sorted now, you can enjoy stress-free boating as we come into summer – and you can concentrate on landing a big fish and enjoying the best this country has to offer!
Remember, if you need assistance, Coastguard is here. Get in touch on your local VHF radio channel or by cellphone on *500. Give the volunteers on the water a wave when you see them!
Here's to a great summer on the water!