Nov 25 2020 All Articles

Steering clear of trouble: Common causes of accidents on the water

Steering clear of trouble: Common causes of accidents on the water

Complacency over weather conditions, not having or wearing the right gear, and operator inexperience are cited as some of the main causes of boating accidents.

If featuring a list of the primary causes of accidents on the water makes people stop and take note, then well and good. Let’s mention them all in the name of safety, as per a list devised by The Yacht Maker (listed in no particular order):

  • Operator inexperience
  • Operator inattention
  • Improper lookout
  • Excessive speed
  • Equipment failure
  • Ignoring the weather
  • Forces of waves or wakes
  • Alcohol or drugs
  • Violation of navigation rules
  • Hazardous waters

Operating a boat doesn’t require a driving or operating licence, which leaves things open to the danger of inexperienced ‘skippers’. Operators not only need to understand the basics of boating and rules of navigation, they also need to be prepared to handle emergency situations.

Inattention isn’t an option. A boat operator needs to be constantly vigilant, monitoring their boat, surroundings and the weather. Remember that boats don’t have brakes and water and tides add an element of unpredictability if there’s the need to react quickly.

There’s no room for complacency when it comes to the weather. Never leave port without checking for news of weather conditions. Don’t assume that clear conditions when you start off will automatically last all day. Keep a watch out for tell-tale signs of changes such as poor visibility, cloud patterns, changes of wind direction and force and even ripples on the sea. 

There’s plenty to think of when it comes to maritime safety. Keeping things simple, but serious, Maritime NZ has narrowed down to four what it considers the key risk factors for recreational boaties. These are: 

  1. Failure to wear lifejackets all the time. 
  2. Inability to communicate for help when an accident happens.
  3. Failure to check the weather forecast before going out.
  4. Alcohol use.

Prep, check, know – that’s one of Maritime NZ’s latest messages. This means:

  1. Prep your boat: Service the engine, check and change the fuel, check the battery, and generally give the boat a good once-over.
  2. Check things – namely the marine weather forecast and your gear. Make sure your lifejackets are still fit for purpose, that you have enough, and service any inflatable lifejackets. It is also important to ensure you have two reliable forms of communication equipment – usually, marine VHF radio is best. Maritime NZ stresses that waterproof communications can save a life: An estimated 59 percent of recreational boating fatalities involve inadequate communications, and only 40 percent of boaties report having two ways to call for help every time they go on the water.
  3. 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.

Take time to refresh your safety skills and knowledge. There are a large number of boating courses that offer the opportunity to not only learn new skills, but also refresh and practice old ones.

Give yourself some extra peace of mind too 

Not already insured on the water? Talk to us today about our cover options. We are specialists in boat insurance, so can shape the best policy to meet your needs. Click here to arrange cover online.