Stay safe on the water – A real life story
A real life tragic boating accident happened to one of our own Blue HQ community members – West Marine Director, Jim Nicholson.
Four years ago, a boating accident rocked Jim’s world, which in this article he shares some useful lessons to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
“If we had our time again, there would be many things we would do different”, Jim said. “Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We had over 80 years’ experience on the boat, we were 100 per cent compliant with the Marine Safety regulations, two of us were safety professionals and just like you we had the attitude that ‘it will never happen to us’.”
Jim was asked by Blue HQ to share some insights into the learnings from the tragic boating accident in June 2013. As background, here’s an article on The West that gives some heartfelt background.
Rather than focus on the personal terror and heartache this accident caused, Jim shares his learnings around the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the factual events.
As a community we would all be affected in some way if a member tragically lost their life in the water, let alone if family were on board. Relying on compliance with the legislation is simply not enough. The one key factor that could have significantly altered our outcome for the better was to be wearing our life jackets, we weren’t, instead they were at the feet of the skipper (where are yours?).
• We completed a visual of the beach launch and plotted waypoints prior to the day
• We checked all equipment the day prior – safety, boating and fishing
• All safety equipment was compliant and in an easy to reach location – became critical
• The weather was good with 1m swells however not unsafe
• We managed to get our life jackets on before the boat sank – less than 2 minutes. The skipper kept the life jackets at his feet. I used to keep mine under the seats in the bow of the boat away from everything, this would have been tragic for all of us that day
• The EPIRB was handed to a passenger with 30 years boating experience
• When in the water for some reason I decided not to remove and adjust my life jacket, little did I know if I had I would have not got it back on in the water
• There was 80 plus years boating experience on board, the skipper was an ex Worksafe Inspector and meticulous when it came to his boat and safety
• The boat was never recovered so unsure of the cause
• We didn’t do a 30 second visual and familiarisation check of safety equipment – we assumed we all knew where the equipment was and how to operate it.
• We didn’t have waterproof cases for our phones
• The passenger who was handed the EPIRB did not have time to set it off and it was lost
• We had to remove weather jackets before putting on our life jackets – time critical
• I did not have time to get my yellow foam brick type 1 PDF on correctly, the cords had twisted and I had never practise putting one on in 20 seconds so unexpectedly before I jumped in to the ocean
• We lost all our fishing equipment
• We never expected it to happen – completely life changing
• It happened so fast, in less than 2 minutes from noticing water to the boat sinking
• No safety equipment came to the surface when the boat sank, despite the EPIRB being in the hands of a passenger – never assume
• We had not radioed through our departure and ETA
• We had not told family or friends of our expected return times, we were found in 3 hours of going into the water
• We had no idea how quickly you are separated in the water, you are focused on survival and fear not how fast the current is separating you or moving you.
• We had no idea how hard it was to swim in life jackets in 1m waves, swells and little energy due to the fear of unexpectedly going into the water
• The difficulties in maintaining bearings in the water, salt water in the eyes, swell, spray, blue ocean and blue sky all making it almost impossible to get your bearings
• Cramps, it’s not like a swim to Rottnest Island, the fear of the situation brings on fatigue faster and hence we rarely hear of survivors swimming to safety, we are found or end up floating for most of the time.
• All I wanted was to stand for 5 minutes and rest, that is a big ocean out there and there is not rest and no reprieve
• The skipper drowned from a teaspoon of saltwater on his lungs, a very dangerous situation we were all monitored for after the accident
It was the amount of people who contacted me with similar stories that made me realise how common my uncommon near death experience on the water actual was. Only last week the Westmarine Team were sea trialling our support vessel when we came across a stranded diver on Stragglers Rocks. Once getting him on-board we learnt there was another diver in the water who had been missing for the last 5 hours. He was found safe by Sea Rescue shortly after. This was only the 4th time I had ventured back onto the water and I was not expecting to be searching for a missing person in the water.
I am happy to present my story, the safety experiences or even break the back of mental health for companies or organisations. The more we share the better we are.
FROM US @ BLUE HQ
Blue HQ and Westmarine personally understand the effects safety accidents can have on all of us. There are rarely second chances on the water and we should all be prepared the best we can.
Great information and literature can be found online at Marine Safety and at the Blue HQ offices helping boat owners understand the regulatory safety requirements and some great aids such as safety checklists and even stickers for your vessels. This is all beneficial however Jim andt the team at Westmarine would like to offer more to support the importance of boat safety.
For Blue HQ Members only, there are a range of personalised safety services below from someone who has been there and isn’t afraid to share. The charges are purely to cover costs. If you can’t afford it Jim will do it for free.
HIT THE WATER EXPERIENCES – $195.00 (ex GST)
The real thing – Jim will accompany you and your guests to a safe location on the water where he will take you through the same sequence of events they experienced ON YOUR BOAT. We all get to experience the speed, confusion, accessibility of your safety equipment, knowledge of guests and if desired time in the water.
This is a unique and very educational way to gain an understanding of how fast events can occur, the various unexpected challenges we face and the things they don’t tell you in the hand book.
For those preferring to experience the events of the accident in their boat on the safety of dry land his can also be arranged.
BOAT SAFETY MANAGEMENT
For $250(ex GST) per year, Jim will personally manage all safety equipment on your boat. This includes two visual inspections a year, full reports and security of knowing your safety equipment is in good working order and accessible at all time. Items tested or inspected include:
• EPIRB – Location, registration, servicing and updates
• PFD’s(Life Jackets) – Location, conditions, inspection and testing, upgrades
• Flares – location, condition, disposal and re supply
• Bilge – Operation and maintenance
• Lights – Inspection checks
• Fire Extinguishers – Inspected and weighed – tested
• Oars/Bailing equipment – Inspected
• Warning devices – Inspection and testing
• Anchor chain payed out and inspected
• Updates on legislative changes and Maine Safety news
• Updates and information on local accidents
• New technology and discounted safety products lists
Contact Jim Nicholson
Mob: 0433 300 025