Boaties urged to always carry two devices to call for help

With the warmer weather approaching, boaties are being reminded to carry two forms of waterproof communication on all vessels.

Maritime NZ research (PDF file, 3.3 MB) shows that having no effective communications gear is a major factor in 58% of fatalities on New Zealand’s waters.

Navigation safety officer, Gordon McKay, said it’s important to have the right safety gear on all types of vessels, not just boats.

“We’re seeing more people enjoying Canterbury’s waterways on kayaks, stand up paddle boards and jet skis. We want them to have a great time out there and get home safe. Unfortunately, accidents can happen very quickly, and if you can’t be heard, you can’t be helped”.

“It’s key that everyone carry communications gear that works when wet. This can be a VHF radio, a beacon, a flare, or even a cell phone in a waterproof bag. Just always make sure you have two,” he said.

Gordon said boaties also need to choose the right equipment for the area they’re in.

“For anyone heading out to our high country lakes, please be aware that VHF radio is not widely monitored and coverage is currently poor in these areas. A beacon is often a better choice for the lakes”.


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Watch this: Communication tips for Canterbury boaties

Choosing your communications equipment 

The three broad categories of communication equipment include:

  1. Satellites – emergency locator beacons and satellite phones.
  2. Land-based stations – marine radio and mobile phones.
  3. Audio or visual signals – including flares, lights, whistles, and horns.

Beacons are the most effective way of letting people know that you need help. They provide a one-way indication of distress and a boat’s location directly to search and rescue authorities anywhere in the world. 

Choosing the right beacon is important. Emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) are generally best for boats, ships, and other activities on water. Maritime New Zealand has information on choosing the right beacon for the right situation. 

Registering your beacon is also a legal requirement. It’s free and only takes a couple of minutes, and it could save your life. 

When registered with the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, a faster and more targeted response can be launched. 

“Registering your beacon puts rescuers in the best position to help you when you are located,” said Gordon. 

Prep your boat, check your gear, know the rules

No matter how experienced you are, you need a plan of action before heading out on the water. All boaties must follow the boating safety code

  • always wear a lifejacket
  • check the marine or high country forecast for the area you’re in
  • avoid alcohol 
  • take two waterproof ways to call for help
  • be a responsible skipper. 

Find out more about recreational boating in Canterbury on our Harbourmaster's Office page.