Centre for Maritime Safety

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Trailer boating

Small runabouts are the most popular type of vessel on our waterways.

Small runabouts are the most popular type of vessel on our waterways. Open runabouts of less than 4.8m are often referred to as “tinnies” and due to their size they are more susceptible to capsize and swamping than larger vessels.

Every skipper of a small vessel needs to take extra care when planning and preparing for a day out, and of course, lifejackets are a key safety item. Experienced trailer boat fisher, Andrew Ettingshausen shares his experience.

Lifejackets

Lifejackets have come a long way in form and function over the years. From the uncomfortable and bulky designs of the past, today’s lifejackets come in a range of styles and are much more convenient and comfortable to wear. View the new range of modern lifejackets and find the right lifejacket for you.

There’s a range of information available about lifejacket requirements when boating. To find out more go to the Lifejackets section.

Alcohol

Boating is a great way to spend time with family and friends, but go easy on the drink. A lot of people already feel a bit wobbly if they’re not used to being on a boat - mix in a few drinks, and the effects of sun, wind and waves and alcohol can be a lethal combination.

If you’re the skipper, you’re responsible for the safety of everyone on board. So take it easy on the water and keep under point 05.

Navigate safely

Speed and wash

If you’re out on a powerboat, just keep an eye on your speed and the amount of wash you’re making. They can both be dangerous.

Always make sure you’re travelling at a safe speed for the conditions and keep a proper lookout.

When you’re traveling at night or if there are lots of other boats around, you should slow down.

And don’t forget to look behind and regularly check your wash so you’re not being a nuisance or danger to others on the water.

Lights

When you’re boating at night, it’s a completely different ballgame.

Unlike driving a car where you use your headlights to see where you’re going, with a boat you use your lights to show others where you are.

If your lights aren’t fitted properly, you can’t expect others to see you.

As the skipper, you must make sure you have the correct lights, and they’ re in proper working order.

Proper lookout

The more you know about boating and what to do when you’re on the water, the better your day. One of the most important things you need to make sure you do is to keep a proper lookout at all times.

Things for everyone on board to keep an eye out for are any floating debris, hazards like submerged reefs or rocks, other boats, especially kayaks and dinghies, and of course swimmers.

And if you’re in a navigation channel, entering a narrow passage, or on a sharp bend, always make sure you keep right.

Plan and prepare

Cold water

No matter what you do out on the water, the more you plan and perpare, the better off you’ll always be. And that goes for the bad as well as the good.

If you’re out on a calm summer’s day and boating on a quiet river, the risk of hypothermia is low.

However, if you’re boating offshore, or in high country areas in winter, it’s a totally different story

Good skippers and crew always wear the right clothes for the conditions so they don’t get cold and risk hypothermia.

So when you’re getting rugged up to keep out the cold, you should ask yourself, - “Could I swim in this gear if I had to?” If you’re not sure then you should wear a lifejacket. It’s not just a lifesaver, it can also keep you warm .

Boat suitability

No matter what boat you head out on, whether it’s a canoe, jetski, tinny, yacht or even a luxury cruiser, they all have their limits.

So it’s a good idea to make sure whichever one you’re on, that it’s suitable for the conditions.

You should always check the weather forecast before you go and ask about localised river, lake or sea conditions. Above all, be sure that you and your vessel can handle the conditions.

Small boats offshore

When you’re boating offshore, you should think about more than just the adventure. Certain conditions can make it quite risky.

The right thing to do is plan your trip. First and foremost, make sure your boat’s up to it. You should also use different sources to check the weather and check that all safety gear is on board and in proper working order.

Part of your planning should include thinking about wind, waves, tides and also safe havens should the conditions change.

If you’re going more than 2 miles offshore, you need a marine radio and an EPIRB emergency beacon.

And always remember to tell someone where you’re going,, when you expect to return and make sure they’ll check. The easiest way is to use your marine radio to log on with the coastal radio network.

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Lifejackets

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Go easy on the drink

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Speed and wash

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Proper lookout

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Cold water

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Boat suitability

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Small boats offshore