Boaties urged to be careful

"In the water you're at the mercy of the ocean."

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 20/11/2012
tdn boat stand'
ANDY JACKSON
Three Waitara fisherman are rescued after they ran out of Petrol off the coast of Motunui earlier this year.

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Taranaki boaties are being urged to wise up on safety this summer after a bad year in the region's waters.

Emergency services are geared up for the summer months and have already dealt with at least one near-miss, in which two boaties spent 12 hours in the water.

Five people have drowned in Taranaki waters this year, a steep rise from the year before when there were no drownings.

Between 2007 and 2010 there were 14 drownings.

Boatie safety is in the national spotlight too, after two fishermen died in the Hauraki Gulf over the weekend.

The men ventured out on a five-metre aluminium boat overloaded with seven people in the Hauraki Gulf, without lifejackets.

Their deaths brought the annual drowning toll to 84.

Senior Constable Jeff McGrath said every year in Taranaki there were incidents of recreational boaties caught ill-equipped and needing assistance.

The latest near-miss happened just last weekend when two men were rescued clinging to their overturned dinghy off Mokau after 12 hours in the water.

But it was a lucky escape, Mr McGrath said.

"Through good fortune of swell and wind they were pushed to shore and finally seen.

"If the weather wasn't in their favour who knows, the outcome could have been tragic."

The men were both wearing life jackets but Mr McGrath said this was not enough.

"A life jacket is mandatory but what do you do if something goes wrong?

"You could have a mechanical issue so you need to be able to tell someone you can't get back in and where you are."

He said it wasn't the men's fault their boat flipped but the nature of the sea meant boaties should be prepared for anything.

"If you fall over in the bush, you're staying there. When you're in the water you're at the mercy of the ocean."

Mr McGrath said it was a timely reminder to get people thinking about simple boating safety.

Safety measures include ensuring everyone on board has a life jacket that fits, a skipper who knows the capabilities of his craft, having proper communications devices onboard such as a hand-held radio or a cellphone, avoiding alcohol while boating, checking the weather and sea forecast before setting out, telling someone where you are going and what time you expect to return and wearing suitable clothing for changeable conditions.

He said while devices such as EPIRBs, locator beacons and flares were useful, these were useless if a boat tipped and you lost access to them. "If you have a cellphone in a waterproof pocket, you can call for help straight away."

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Surf Lifesaving New Zealand club development officer Andy Cronin said with the weather getting warmer people should get out and enjoy it but take a few precautions.

"We want to see people out there having fun but looking after each other so they can come home at the end of the day."

Coastguard Taranaki president Graham Cowling said it was wise to check your vessel before leaving to make sure it was working properly and to file a report with the Coastguard before setting out to sea.

- Taranaki Daily News

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