Local Coastguard operators are urging boaties to check their boats before hitting the water this summer.

Southern regional manager Cheryl Moffat warned that with summer around the corner, boaties must wear life jackets when heading out.

"Wearing your life jacket increases your survival time in the water - so many times if somebody had been wearing a life jacket we would have been able to save a life."

Canterbury Coastguard received 42 calls for assistance in the last year and assisted 98 people.

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The most common callouts were breakdowns (18 per cent) followed by object sightings (17 per cent) and capsized and sinking boats (16 per cent).

Ms Moffat said people spent considerable money on their boats and new boaties should invest a little to keep themselves safe by enrolling in a boat safety course before hitting the water.

"The more you know, the safer you are."

Boaties that hadn't used their boats over winter should also check their batteries, make sure the fuel in their boats wasn't stale and check that bungs were secure before heading out.

"Check the weather before you go out, and look at the long-term forecast and what's coming up from the south. Look at the marine forecast, it's easily available online."

Nationally, Coastguard rescued 158 people and saved the lives of 50 others during Search and Rescue operations in the last year, its 2012 annual report reveals.

It also assisted 368 who would have been at risk if Coastguard had not intervened.

Forty-five people perished before Coastguard could save then and 61 others were not located and rescue crews stood down.

Coastguard embarked on 3339 missions nationally in the year to June 30.

Coastguard chief executive Patrick Holmes said most Coastguard callouts were for broken down boats due to neglectful owners.

"If the engine's been sitting idle for six months and you've got dirty fuel - then to go out when you haven't done the basic maintenance on the vessel - you're asking for trouble.

"The terrible things that happened for example down in Bluff earlier this year with the Easy Rider that went down - thankfully they're the minority of our call outs. Most of them are things that are a little bit more mundane but nevertheless, if not dealt with could equally be life-threatening."

Mr Holmes said Coastguard was a charity and its biggest challenge was sourcing funding.

"We only receive a relatively modest amount from the Government - towards the cost of providing our services."

The Government contributed $1.874 million towards the organisation's Search and Rescue costs for the year ended June 30, 2012.

Coastguard has 27.5 paid employees, who are mostly employed in coordination roles, Mr Holmes said.

The organisation relied on volunteers for the "vast majority" of its work.

More than 350,000 hours were donated by Coastguard's 2398 volunteers in the past year - an average of 151 hours per person. The majority - 136,000 hours - were spent on radio watch and a further 80,000 hours on training.

Behind many volunteers was a partner or spouse who provided invaluable support, Mr Holmes said.

"I cannot thank them enough for the sacrifices they make - for the cold or ruined dinners and countless other inconveniences suffered on our behalf. All of this makes Coastguard the highly respected charity that it is today."

Coastguard's royal patron, Prince Charles, is set to visit the charity at the marine rescue centre in Auckland on Monday during the Queen's diamond jubilee celebration tour.