The inaugural Safer Boating Week is off to a tragic start following a week marred by two fatal boating accidents.
One person died and three were injured when a boat flipped at Mahia, north of Wairoa yesterday. It came after two fishermen went missing after setting off in a dinghy near Warkworth on Tuesday.
A total of 23 boaties died on the water last year. The same number had died this year as of yesterday.
Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch, whose organisation is behind Safer Boating Week, said the incidents marked a tragic beginning to the boating season.
Although both incidents were under investigation and the contributing factors were unknown, they both happened on small boats of around 4m, he said.
"The vast majority of recreational boating fatalities do occur on boats under 6m. It's simply a fact that you are more vulnerable on small boats."
The aim of the inaugural Safer Boating Week, which begins today, was to remind boaties how quickly things could go wrong when out on the water, and to take steps to ensure they were prepared, Mr Manch said.
"Those steps include, wearing your lifejacket, taking two forms of reliable communications equipment with you, checking the weather forecast and avoiding alcohol."
Maritime NZ research showed the majority of New Zealanders had good safety attitudes but they didn't always translate into safe behaviour on the water.
The organisation's deputy director Lindsay Sturt said the research showed a large gap between what people knew to be safe behaviour and how they actually behaved.
Although 70 per cent of boaties claimed to wear a lifejacket all the time, on-water surveys showed it was more like half, he said.
Around two-thirds of those who died in boating accidents might have been saved if they wore lifejackets, Mr Sturt said.
There was a similar discrepancy when it came to carrying communications equipment to call for help and the "she'll be right" attitude had tragic consequences, he said.
"Unfortunately, simple mistakes, or a lack of having basic equipment in good working order, can be the difference between just getting wet and not coming home."
Mr Sturt appealed for boaties to prepare their boats to make sure they were safe this season, to check their safety gear, and to familiarise themselves with the rules - specifically what to do if something goes wrong.
"None of it is complicated but it could save your life this summer."
The campaign runs from today until October 24.
Two Christchurch men are being lauded by rescuers after having the foresight to pack a personal locator beacon before going kayaking in Banks Peninsula in April.
Ian Summerfield and Jeremiah Shaw had been spending a weekend with friends in the Peninsula when they decided to pack up a tandem kayak and undertake a snorkelling excursion in in Goughs Bay.
The weather was clear and sunny when they first set off at 4pm, but a southerly rolled in "very very fast", Mr Summerfield said.
"We were probably about 200m away from the bay [from] getting back in, but it hit so fast - the wind whipped up in less than a minute and it tipped us over.
"It just picked up so quickly from [being] about 21 degrees, blue, sunny sky, lovely weather and then suddenly, within less than a minute, we were in the water turned over."
Mr Summerfield said they were both wearing lifejackets and wetsuits and he was able to get back into the kayak, but his friend wasn't able to due to the strength of the wind.
With him in the kayak and Mr Shaw swimming alongside, they made their way to the base of a cliff and managed to get to a point where they could get out of the water, but had to abandon the kayak, he said.
By about 6pm it began to get dark and the pair made the decision to set off their personal locator beacon about 9pm, he said.
"It was just getting to a point where we knew the forecast was going to drop down to 2 degrees, we couldn't see anything out there looking for us directly, fishing boats had gone past, they'd all gone in.
"We could see that there was no way of us getting out ourselves and we were pretty much in for the night."
Mr Summerfield said there was little he would have changed in hindsight. They had told people where they were going and had checked the weather forecast before departing.
"Even the beacon was at the time probably over the top really for what we were doing. It was quite a relief though that it was in the kayak."
Rescue Coordination Centre senior search and rescue officer John Dickson said the rescue was a classic example of how people could get caught out easily.
"You'll see it often, it'll be good conditions and then it all turns to worms after that.
"It just shows how being prepared certainly works to your advantage - there's no doubt about that."
FIVE TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE ON THE WATER:
* Check your boat
* Wear your lifejacket
* Take two forms of waterproof communication equipment
* Check the maritime weather forecast
* Avoid alcohol
BOATING SAFETY BY THE NUMBERS:
* 23 fatalities on the water so far this year - 18 recreational, five commercial
* 23 fatalities on the water for all of 2013 - 19 recreational, four commercial
* 88 per cent of all New Zealanders believe lifejackets should always be worn on recreational boats
* 80 per cent of boaties feel the same
* 70 per cent of boaties say they wear a lifejacket all the time - on-water surveys show it's more like half