Know your boat’s limits
  |  First Published: August 2003

NSW Waterways has stressed the need for small-boat owners to know the limits of their craft following a series of serious offshore boating incidents over Winter, including a triple fatality off Kiama and the rescue of two men off Kurnell.

Waterways Authority chief executive Matthew Taylor said small open runabouts did not belong in difficult ocean conditions. The combination of winds and waves, especially during Winter,could create hazardous conditions for small craft, particularly those under six metres.

“Small craft in offshore conditions are at a heightened risk of capsize or swamping and skippers need to know the limits of their craft,” he said. "A skipper should understand the conditions their vessel is designed to handle, heed those limits and avoid situations where their craft has an increased risk of capsize or swamping.

“Ensure your vessel is in good working order before setting out. Fuel shortage, mechanical or battery failures are the major causes of breakdown at sea.

“Check the weather and if you are in doubt about your capability in those conditions, or the vessel’s, don’t go out. Many boaters plan trips well ahead and it can be a big let-down if the conditions aren’t good. But really, it’s just not worth it to take the risk in unsuitable conditions.”

Mr Taylor said experience and a temperament to handle the different boating conditions should be coupled with commonsense. Skippers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their vessel and, most importantly, their crew and passengers.

“Waterways strongly recommends boaters wear their lifejackets at times of heightened risk and that includes when crossing ocean bars, in deteriorating weather or when boating alone at night,” Mr Taylor said. “Children and poor swimmers should wear a lifejacket at all times while afloat.

“A marine radio is another valuable safety item for boaters offshore as it provides a communication link to coastal radio stations and other boaters. It can be used for obtaining weather updates, alerting people to where you are going and when you a due back, and raising the alarm in a emergency.”

– NSW Waterways

Caution in shallow inland waters

A MAN died following a serious boating incident on Wyangala Dam in State’s Central West, prompting Waterways Authority chief executive Matthew Taylor to calling on boaters in regional NSW to heed warnings on boating safety, especially during the Winter.

"The drought has seen water levels of many dams and rivers drop significantly and, in most cases, this has increased the number of navigation hazards," Mr Taylor said. “Boat owners need to proceed with caution and keep a lookout for hazards such as tree stumps, fence posts, rocks and other obstacles which may be present in low water levels. Some hazards can be just below the surface, with the potential to cause a vessel to capsize should a collision at speed occur.

"Due to the changing nature of many inland waterways, it is impractical to mark all hazards with navigation aids. It is the responsibility of the person in charge, whether boating off the coast or on an inland dam, to safely navigate their vessel and keep a proper lookout while travelling at a safe speed”

Mr Taylor said capsize during Winter posed another risk to boaters – hypothermia. "People thrown overboard due to capsize may to develop hypothermia, which can be fatal," he said. "Immersion in cold water can cause the body to lose heat up to 25 times faster than normal.

"It is vitally important that the skipper navigates with caution and where there is an increased risk of capsize, ensures that all passengers wear lifejackets as a precaution."

 Mr Taylor said people boating during Winter should avoid the combination of heavy clothing and gumboots or waders because they can make it difficult, if not impossible, to swim.

For more information on boating safety call Waterways Info Line 13 12 56

Port Macquarie office relocates

THE Waterways Authority Port Macquarie office has relocated to Shop 1 at the corner of Uralla and Merrigal roads to better cater for clients who wish to get a licence, register their boat or use the renewal facilities.

North Coast regional manager Jim Green said Waterways had outgrown its previous residence at the Port Marina. “While our long-term strategy is to develop a purpose-built facility on the waterfront, we are delighted with our new premises,” he said.

“The new office is spacious, providing a better working environment for staff and better parking for customers. We also have ample storage space for our vessels, navigation aids and emergency response equipment.

“Port Macquarie is a popular area for recreational boating and our new premises accommodate our customers and visiting boaters with greater comfort. Many visiting boaters make use of the local office to carry out their renewals and registrations before they take to the waters of Port Macquarie and the Hastings River.”

The Port Macquarie office is open from 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday, Thursday and Friday from May to September and Monday to Friday from October to April, phone 02 6583 1007, fax 02 6583 1566.

– NSW Waterways

Waterways Funds Historic Vessel Project

THE Mid North Coast Maritime Museum has received a $5500 kick-start from the Waterways Authority for the restoration of the historic vessel Goniemah.

Waterways Authority chief executive Matthew Taylor, handed over the grant, citing the authority’s link to the 1948 vessel. "Australia is rich in maritime heritage and the Goniemah is part of that heritage," he said. "She was built on Goat Island in Sydney, the birthplace of many working vessels that once serviced coastal ports such as Port Macquarie.

"The Goniemah has particular importance to Waterways as she belonged to our predecessor, the Maritime Services Board, and served as the Sydney Harbour Master’s work boat for many years. The MSB donated the Goniemah to Mid North Coast Maritime Museum in 1990 and with her restoration she will no doubt become one of museum’s prime maritime treasures.”

The Mid North Coast Maritime Museum is home to the oldest slipyard on the east coast and Port Macquarie boasts boatsheds dating back to the 1860s.

– NSW Waterways

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