Coastguard urges boaties to be safe on water

By, Merania Karauria

Coastguard Wanganui's core business is saving lives and they're ready 24/7 to be out on the water when the need arises.

The four skippers and three crews are on call and rostered two weeks on and four off, and every one is a volunteer.

Now that summer is here, Coastguard Wanganui president Kevin McKenna is reminding boaties to check their boats to make sure they're safe and sound for whatever conditions could be encountered on the water.

This applies to any water craft, like jet-skis and kayaks, Mr McKenna says. And number one priority before you think about launching: "Make sure your boat is properly and regularly maintained."

Staying safe on the water falls to the boat's skipper who is responsible for the boat and everyone on board.

Life jackets must fit the person and be for their age and size, and they must be worn.

Coastguards must also be able to stay afloat. Coastguard New Zealand has a service level agreement with the Government who distribute funds around the regions. Wanganui is in the Central region that stretches from New Plymouth to Nelson.

The Wanganui Coastguard has a membership of 800 boaties whose fees go towards the upkeep. Fundraisers are a part of this service.

Energy Direct is Coastguard Wanganui's main sponsor. "We are very grateful to have them on board," Mr McKenna says.

In his president's report, Mr McKenna said last summer they had to assist boaties who had run out of fuel.

"We use about 35 litres an hour in fuel, and it's expensive to operate when we have to tow someone in."

Unfortunately, while under tow, the rescued boaties were generous, but it did not necessarily translate to a real donation once they were safe on land.

All volunteers are professionally trained with the best of skills for Coastguard work.

Trevor Gibson takes boat master or day skipper courses, and a workplace first aid certificate is essential to become a Coastguard volunteer.

Training varies and volunteers show their interest through their input.

There are safety modules to do, which are taught by the unit training officer.

And if you're new to the area, Mr McKenna says to call into Coastguard headquarters on Wharf St in Castlecliff if you want to know about bar crossings.

"Every bar has its time and moments and the Whanganui River bar is no exception for the risks it poses to boaties in stormy weather, where the swell can get up to four metres.

"Every summer familiarise yourself with your flares. Have a look at them, see what they can do and how to set them off.

"Learn how to use your GPS so you know the latitude and longitude of your position. Join Coastguard, and if you're not a member, let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back."



  • VHF Emergency channel: 16.

  • Coastguard Wanganui channel: 85.

  • Local weather channel: 21.

  • Dial 111 in an emergency.



  • Let someone know where you're going - Coastguard channel 85, and make sure someone else knows how to drive the boat and use the radio.

  • Life jackets: Take them - wear them.

  • Skipper responsibility: The skipper is responsible for everyone on board and for the safe operation of the boat.

  • Communications: Take two separate waterproof ways of communicating so Coastguard can help you if you get into difficulties.

  • Marine weather: New Zealand's weather is unpredictable. Check the marine weather forecast before you go out and expect both weather and sea state to change.

  • Avoid alcohol: Safe boating and alcohol do not mix. You need to stay alert and aware.

  • If in doubt, stay at home - there's always another day.


  • Two forms of communication - VHF radio or cellphone.

  • Life jackets to fit everyone on board.

  • Flares, torch, bailing bucket.

  • Compass.

  • EPIRB with GPS.



  • Service your boat.

  • Check the condition of the hull.

  • Do a radio check from home with the Coastguard.

  • Check the condition of your life jackets - self-inflating need to be serviced at least. Once a year and manually blowing them up.

  • Check the expiry date of the cylinder in your inflatable life jacket.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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