“Bag Your Cell” is one of the catchphrases of this year’s Safer Boating Week – that aims to drive home the message to boaties to take reliable communications when out on the water.
“Too many recreational boaties end in the water or in difficulty and have no way of calling for help,” says Maritime NZ education and communications manager Pania Shingleton. “Everybody should carry two reliable forms of communications equipment, and make sure they are water-tight.”
Cell phones should be carried in waterproof bags, so that calls can reliably be made by pushing buttons through the plastic covering. Other communications options include distress beacons (PLBs – personal locator beacons), hand-held VHF radio (Channel 16), and flares to draw rescuers” attention.
The second annual Safer Boating Week is to be held from October 16 – 23, to coincide with the lead-up to Labour Weekend – the traditional start to the recreational boating season.
As chair of the NZ Safer Boating Forum, Maritime NZ is coordinating a range of activities around the country that aim to raise awareness about the need to consider preparation and safety before the summer season kicks off.
Last year lifejackets were placed on public statues around the country as a quirky reminder of summer’s start, and the fact lifejackets save lives.
The number of deaths from recreational boating accidents averages around 20 a year in New Zealand. Generally around two-thirds of those that drown could have been saved if they wore a lifejacket.
Ms Shingleton says the main aim is to encourage all boaties to pause before heading out for the first time this season, and go through a series of basic steps that will help them keep safe this summer. “Taking the time to take stock could save your life this summer,” says Ms Shingleton.
Prep your boat – service the engine, check and change the fuel, check the battery and just generally give the boat a good onceover.
Check your gear – make sure your lifejackets are still fit for purpose and you have enough; service any inflatable lifejackets and ensure you have two reliable forms of communications equipment.
Know the rules – ensure you know the rules of the road on the water, and check your local bylaws to make sure you understand what the requirements are in your area.