Safer Boating Week starts today

Boaties should test their equipment and have strong communication channels ready for their vessels as Safer Boating Week gets underway.

Environment Canterbury navigation safety officer Gary Manch is urging boaties of all kinds – from paddleboarders to powercraft operators – to ensure their lifejackets are in a serviceable condition and fitted correctly.

This echoes the message from Maritime New Zealand for Safer Boating Week that runs from October 12-19.

“We want all Canterbury boaties to have fun on the water and remain safe, which is why we are asking them to check their lifejackets before they head back to the water as the weather improves,” Manch said.

“Having two forms of waterproof communication, suitable for the area they’re in, such as a VHF radio and cell phone is important.”

Manch said boaties should check their vessel was well-serviced before heading out.

“Our main message, like Maritime New Zealand’s, is ‘Prep, check, know’ to make sure Canterbury boaties are well-prepared for when they take to the water.”
Safer Boating Week chair Sharyn Forsyth said too many Kiwi boaties had lifejackets that were out of date that would pose a potential safety risk.

“Seawater and sun are tough on equipment, and wear and tear can shorten your lifejacket’s lifespan to less than 10 years,” Forsyth said.

“Worryingly, we know many Kiwi boaties are still relying on kapok-filled lifejackets that are 30 to 50 years old.

“Kapok-filled lifejackets are dangerous, even if they look brand new and have been well looked after.”

Kapok is a fluffy plant fibre, similar to cotton. It has not been used in lifejackets since the 1980s because it can absorb water and cause wearers to sink.
Lifejackets with either kapok filling or cotton straps should be destroyed, and new jackets purchased.

Modern lifejackets of all types should be tested every time before they are worn. If they are 10 years old, destroy them and replace them.

Canterbury boaties can find out more at:

Prep, check, know

Prep your boat - service the engine, check and change the fuel, check the battery, and generally give the boat a good once-over

Check your gear - make sure your lifejackets are still fit for purpose and you have enough, service any inflatable lifejackets, ensure you have two reliable forms of communication equipment – usually, marine VHF radio is best, check the marine weather forecast.

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.

Boating by the numbers:

  • 1.51 million adults in New Zealand (about 42% of the adult population) took part in recreational boating last summer.
  • Kayaks were again the most popular form of recreational vessel owned or used by boaties (33%), followed by power boats up to 6 metres (22%) and dinghies (11%).

Some long-term statistics:

  • 90% of fatalities are men aged about 40 and older
  • 85% of fatalities occur in boats less than six metres long
  • For 75% of fatalities in boats less than six metres capsize is a major factor; 28% for vessels over six metres
  • 2/3 fatalities would likely be prevented if lifejackets were worn
  • For around 58% of fatalities, no effective communications were a major factor
  • 19-20 boaties, on average, die each year (based on the past five years); 19 last year and three this year as at October 1.