Vigilance and visibility key factors
The old saw, "be safe, be seen" is just as applicable to water pursuits as it is to walking or cycling on roads at night.
This is especially true of Nelson's harbour area - a comparatively safe Haven for a myriad of users, and long may that remain.
To that end, the recent move by a handful of keen sea swimmers to boost visibility is to be applauded.
Michele Surcouf and Margaret Johnson have made the news pages twice this week - the first time when a long-distance photo of them in the Horoirangi Marine Reserve sparked a call to the Department of Conservation by a resident of the Glen who thought they saw people acting suspiciously.
Then yesterday they "outed" themselves as the central characters in the photo, explaining that those little orange blobs were not a new-fangled fishing contraption, but flotation devices for swimmers. Rather than abusing the marine park, they thoroughly endorse it and found swimming through it "stunning".
Close up, the orange floaters might look odd, but they are useful for a number of reasons.
Swimmers can keep keys, phones or other small essentials dry in them. They are no substitutes for life jackets, but add a little buoyancy should users need to ease up for a bit.
However, their main value is in their high visibility. Nelson boaties should especially welcome them, especially when used by swimmers out on their own or in small numbers.
Of course, boaties must take all due diligence and care when out on the water. However, there is always the prospect of whacking into a log or other potentially damaging flotsam . . . and how terrible to plough into a human out enjoying a Sunday swim.
If the worst happened, the person at the wheel would potentially face serious charges in court as well as carrying a terrible burden throughout their lives.
Coroners in other parts of New Zealand have spoken out following past boating tragedies, suggesting the public is losing patience with boaties who flout the rules of speed, vigilance and common sense.
Boats of all sizes are a significant factor in Nelson's harbour, and sea swimming a fast-growing trend. Neither group can be too cautious.
- The Nelson Mail