Road Rules for the Water

  Photo credit: Cameron Barton

Photo credit: Cameron Barton

AS PART OF SAFER BOATING WEEK, NZUA WOULD LIKE TO SHARE MARITIME NZ'S SAFE BOATING PRACTICES, RULES AND GUIDELINES, TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE ENJOYS THEMSELVES ON THE WATER THIS SUMMER.

It's worth reminding skippers everywhere of the expectations on boaties and the rules they should be following so that everyone stays safe.

The Maritime NZ website outlines the rules every skipper should know before taking a boat out on the water.

Skipper responsibilities

Read about your responsibilities as a skipper and understand the boating rules to ensure the safety of all those on board.

Know the maritime rules
Every boat, no matter how big or small, must have a skipper.

The skipper is legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all the people on board, and is also responsible for complying with all the relevant rules and regulations.

Even though no licence is required to operate a pleasure boat in New Zealand, ignorance of any maritime rules or regional bylaws is not accepted as an excuse. Failure to comply can lead to instant fines or prosecution.

Before you undertake any form of boating activity, we recommend you undertake some form of boating education and understand the “rules of the road on the water”.

See the 'Road Rules for the Water' section of the Maritime NZ website here to brush up on the give way rules.

  Kapok-filled lifejackets are considered dangerous, and are recommended to be disposed of and replaced before you hit the water this summer. Image from Maritime NZ.

Kapok-filled lifejackets are considered dangerous, and are recommended to be disposed of and replaced before you hit the water this summer. Image from Maritime NZ.

Lifejackets must be carried on board or worn at all times
Maritime law requires ALL skippers to carry enough lifejackets of the right size and type for everyone on board.

We recommend that lifejackets are worn at all times when underway, especially by children and non-swimmers. Lifejackets must also be worn in any situation where there is an increased risk to safety.

Maritime NZ also recommends all kapok-filled lifejackets be destroyed with a craft knife to prevent re-use, and replaced, as sometimes these lifejackets can sink and the cotton straps can rip, so they are considered dangerous.

Know the bylaws for your region about lifejackets. Many regions also have bylaws in place that make it compulsory for lifejackets to be worn at all times or in certain circumstances, and for communications devices to be carried while boating. Check with your regional council before going out.

Know or check your bylaws
Many regions also have bylaws covering navigational safety.

The MarineMate app (free for android and iphones) will deliver regional bylaws to your smart phone.

See the 'Regional Bylaw' section of the Maritime NZ website here to check up on your area's bylaws.

Avoid alcohol
Safer boating and alcohol do not mix. Things can change quickly on the water. All on board need to stay alert and aware.

To learn about the consequences of alcohol and boating, see the 'Alcohol Related Cases' section of the Maritime NZ website here.

Stick to safe speeds
Keep to a safe speed – this means slowing down in situations where you may find it difficult to see another boat, eg in waves, rain, or fog, or when there is glare on the water. Understand and operate within the speed limits – the maximum speed permitted for all boats in New Zealand is 5 knots (about 9 km/h) within 200 metres of shore or any boat with a dive flag, and within 50 metres of any other boat or swimmer.

You and your boat

Get your engine serviced
Make sure your boat’s engine is up to the job. Schedule an annual service and make regular visual checks.

Check and change your fuel
If your boat has been out of the water for a while, it pays to replace old fuel with clean, fresh fuel.

Never assume your trip will run exactly according to plan - always plan to use a third of your fuel for the trip out, a third for the trip back, and have a third in reserve for unexpected events.

Check your battery
Take a thorough look and make sure everything on your boat is in good working order.

Start in one place and work your way around the boat, checking everything, inside and out. If you find anything that is damaged or worn, repair it properly or replace it.

Do a good once-over
Take a thorough look and make sure everything on your boat is in good working order.

Start in one place and work your way around the boat, checking everything, inside and out. If you find anything that is damaged or worn, repair it properly or replace it.

Before you head out

  Photo credit: Matthew Green

Photo credit: Matthew Green

Learn about the tasks you need to do just before you hit the water.

Get familiar with the area
Make sure you get local knowledge about hazards.

Every region in New Zealand has local variations in the environment and water conditions. Make sure you have the latest scale chart of any area where you go boating. Charts show things such as water depth, rocks above and below the water, underwater cables, tidal flows, buoys, beacons, lighthouses and the coastline.

Check the conditions
Make sure you are up-to-date with the marine weather forecast and tides for your boating area.

Marine forecasts are good at predicting major weather events, e.g. gales, but they may be less accurate when predicting changes in local conditions. Be sure to seek local information and knowledge and be prepared for the unexpected.

If you are in doubt, change your plans and don’t go out.

Share your plans
Let someone responsible know where you’re going, when you expect to be back and to call the police if you are overdue.

Be sure to leave details regarding:

  • the number of people on board or going with you
  • your boat, e.g. your boat’s name and radio callsign

You can file a trip report by VHF radio with Coastguard or Maritime radio. Don’t forget to cancel your trip report when you return safely!

Alternatively if you dont have a VHF radio you can use the simple trip report form, available from the Maritime NZ website here.

This will help you provide the key information your family and emergency services would need if you have to be rescued. Leave a copy with family or friends who can call Police if you are overdue. You might also be able to leave a copy at a boat club.

Stow your gear onboard
To ensure a safe and trouble-free boating experience, make sure your gear is in working order, accessible and stowed away on board.

Do a quick check for lifejackets and communications equipment.

Plan your boat launch
When you arrive at the boat ramp, park well out of the way of other boats as you prepare to launch your boat.

Watch out for overhead wires. It is extremely dangerous to pass under one if your vessel’s total height exceeds the ‘SAFE CLEARANCE’ given to your boating area. Electrical arcing and burns can occur from contact with powerlines.

As you prepare to enter the water:

  • put in bungs and check that they are secure
  • check that your safety gear is abroad
  • check that you have enough fuel
  • brief your crew and passengers - make sure everyone knows how to find and work the safety equipment stowed onboard Slowly move away from the ramp, while keeping a good lookout - remember the 5 knot rule.

Crossing a bar

Bar crossings can be dangerous, and it’s important to have the right local knowledge and skills before going out.

You must:

  • understand the state of the bar
  • be able to interpret the conditions and
  • be able to assess the ever-changing shape and location of the channel.

Before you head out, build your knowledge by talking to local experts and studying the weather, tides, and bar at low tide.

See the Maritime NZ video here, and visit the website for more information on a course you can do to learn to cross a bar safely.

New Zealand Underwater