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S A F E – B O A T I N G

Jan 30, 2019 Features

Prudent boaties monitor weather forecasts and tidal conditions before embarking on a voyage.

Alone in her kayak, drifting in pitch darkness for nearly five hours, Amanda knew she was in danger.

Her journey on Lake Taupo started out fine – the waters were calm and the sun was out. But suddenly everything changed. The wind started to increase and Amanda was quickly blown offshore further into the lake, battling the now choppy conditions.

Amanda was losing hope – she was freezing and struggling to keep calm. But then, suddenly, she spotted a green boat light in the distance. Amanda’s partner had raised the alarm when she hadn’t come home, and Coastguard Turangi quickly jumped into action. The rescue crew found her and lifted her from the kayak into safety.

Amanda’s story has a happy ending, but not all boaties and kayakers are as lucky. The weather can change quickly, turning calm, flat waters into dangerous choppy conditions, especially for small craft. It’s vital that you obtain a weather forecast before you go boating, understand what effect it will have and continue to monitor the weather while you are out.

ALWAYS CHECK THE FORECAST

Before you go out, make sure you check the marine weather forecast. It’s available on the Metservice website, while weather forecasts and other useful information such as tide times are broadcast by Coastguard’s Nowcasting service on dedicated VHF channels around the country.

The Coastguard app also gives you information on NowCasting and weather forecasts and can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

It’s important to remember that checking a regular weather forecast is not enough when heading out on the water. Land and general forecasts don’t take into account wind speed over water (which may be double that over land) or the waves or swell.

Marine weather forecasts will give you information about the wind speed and direction, the sea, swells, visibility, and wave height. This is all important information to give you a clear picture of whether or not the conditions are safe.

While marine forecasts are almost always accurate, it’s a good idea to also seek out local information. Talk to the local harbourmaster to see if there are any changes in conditions that usually happen in the area.

IF IN DOUBT, DON’T GO OUT!

Never underestimate the power of the weather and conditions. Many accidents and fatalities at sea are a result of bad weather, resulting in conditions on board a vessel becoming extremely hazardous.

As a skipper, it’s important to understand the different parts of a weather forecast and the best way to find local information. A Coastguard Boating Education Day Skipper course is a good way to get the information you need. The course covers boat handling, safety equipment, navigation, tides, weather, rules and regulations, emergencies, and knots – it is a broad course outlining the whole boating experience.

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