Safety At Sea with Blue HQ
With another busy summer Perth boating season in full swing I am sure many Blue HQ customers have seen the news headlines about life lost, boats sunk and dangerous rescues in recreational boating accidents over the summer break. I am sure many of us might shiver and think of a near-miss we have had in our own time on the water.
We not only hear about the reported incidents, but also see many other unreported close shaves and rescues that happen on a regular basis in our boating community. Putting illegal or foolhardy behaviour to one side these incidents often involve experienced and contentious boaters, emphasising the point that the situation can change in an instant and you can never be too careful.
With over 400 recreational stacking boat customers our aim is to contribute to better understanding and safer boating practices. We understand the many diverse boating interests and passions in the Blue HQ boating community. Our worst fear is for one of our customers ever be injured, or worse.
So what can we learn from the incidents this summer? With that goal in mind Blue HQ has laid out some simple reminders particularly applicable to small open style boats so we can minimize the future risks to experienced and new boaters?
1. The Ocean is Unpredictable
The summer months with clear skies, low swells and calm winds lure us into a feeling we can go anywhere at any time. However when the swell comes up strong currents and rogue waves can spring from nowhere. Often, it is regular boaters who are caught looking for that perfect wave to surf, dive spot or their cray pot in a special spot that was flat calm only a day or two before.
Such a situation occurred in the days around Christmas Day last year when the swell came up to be joined in the days that followed by strong winds. Holidays encouraged many people to be on the water in this time resulting in several incidents and dangerous rescues causing the water police to remind boaters to exercise caution and check the weather forecast before heading out.
2. The Risk of Falling Overboard
We have witnessed over summer multiple scary incidents, including a tragic fatality, involving all aboard falling, or being thrown overboard from their small boat with the engine still running and boat upright. Travelling at high speed or an unexpected rogue wave often create this highly unexpected and dangerous situation
There is both the risk of injury while being thrown out, the lack of access to your phone or (preferably) VHF radio and the terrible danger of the boat continuing to circle people in the water. In the case of the Exmouth solo marlin fisherman the boat held its course over the horizon only to be discovered by others leading to his miracle rescue via the GPS track. In another recent case the occupants were unable to get back into their slowly circling boat after being swamped and so had to swim a fair distance into a Rottnest bay to get assistance.
Again, it is highly likely that this will affect regular boaters who are often doing something they have done many times before in an off-the-beat location.
The Cabin Cruiser that came aground at Rottnest on Boxing Day this year.
3. New to Boating
Experience only comes through practice and being prepared to ask for more information if in doubt. Learn how to properly use the VHF radio and navigation aids such as GPS for extra confidence. Look for regular opportunities to do guided tours of Rottnest Island if you have not done so. Continue to develop the right understanding and best practice approach to operating your boat for the safety and comfort of your friends and family.
The team at Blue HQ are only too happy to help if you make some time on quiet day to run through the basics.
4. Know Your Boat.
This applies to new and inexperienced boaters alike. The owner of the large cruiser that was sadly sunk on shallow reef due to engine failure over the Christmas break was praised by the rescue authorities for his swift and professional action to contact the authorities and then safely evacuate the people onboard, including young children. He knew his boat and could put an emergency plan into place that led to swift rescue and no serious injuries.
Know how basic safety equipment works and where it is stowed especially if you are in a partnership. Check it is in date.
Often bilge pumps are installed but are not working or blocked. Are yours?
We especially encourage all small boat owners to do the following when on the water;
• Always use an engine Kill-Cord
• All persons onboard to wear Personal Floatation Devices (PFD)
• Know how to use your VHF and log into Sea Rescue (VHF Ch73) or at the very least let someone know your intended plan for the day and return time
• Scan VHF Ch 73 and 16 as you never know if you may be closest to an incident nearby especially when out diving, fishing or surfing
Blue HQ will be holding a safety training session late February early March 2017. Keep an eye on your email and this blog for more information or register your interest here.