Top tips from Coastguard for Kiwi boaties this summer

Last year more than 1.5 million Kiwis spent time out on the water. But what happens when something goes wrong and you find yourself stuck out at sea?

Over the last three years Coastguard New Zealand has seen an increase in non-urgent incidents in the months (August, September and October) leading up to summer. This year alone there have been 140 more incidents in that period compared to the same time last year.

"With Kiwis not having the option of heading overseas as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, and with the America’s Cup racing next year, we’re expecting our busiest summer yet," says Georgie Smith, Coastguard New Zealand’s Head of Marketing & Communications.

"We expect Kiwis to hit the water en masse over the summer holidays – it’s in our DNA, isn’t it? With summer comes a chance to relax with friends and family, catch a feed or just have some typical Kiwi summer fun in a year that's been anything but typical."

With boats out in force over the summer this further increases the need to understand why having a Coastguard membership is so important.

As Smith says Coastguard membership is a ‘no brainer’, giving boaties peace of mind with free non-urgent assistance nationwide, so ‘you know Coastguard has got your back’ when the unexpected happens – which it does, even to the most experienced boatie.

"We want Kiwis to have a great time on the water, and to enjoy it safely and with confidence," she says.

Some well-known Kiwis who share a love of the water, including Caitlyn O’Reilly, Adam Blair and Scott Parry, have thrown their support behind Coastguard and the chance to help hit the message home to their fellow Kiwis. The trio helped illustrate that there’s no easy way of getting home without a Coastguard Membership if you get stuck out on the water with a flat battery or mechanical issue, when Coastguard hosted the ‘Long Swim Home’ campaign, featured on The Project recently. 

"It can be a lot worse as more often than not you’re much further away from land – what if you're 10 - 15kms away from anything? It’s quicker, easier and a lot cheaper just to get yourself a Coastguard Membership," says Smith.

This is an important lesson you don’t want to learn firsthand, yet so many Kiwis do.

Coastguard New Zealand shares with Newshub some key safety messages for summer-

  1. Check and prep your boat, especially after the winter months. Are your batteries charged? Fresh fuel? Engine serviced and ready to go? Got your Lifejackets sorted? Take them and wear them, they’ve never ruined a day out on the water.

  2. Check your local marine weather forecast before you head out. The Coastguard app is free to download and has up to the minute wind and weather information at the touch of a button.

  3. Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. You can do this via a Trip Report with Coastguard Radio or through the Coastguard app

  4. For peace of mind check your Coastguard Membership is up to date, or if you haven’t got one yet, you can get this sorted today for only $115. That way if the engine does break down and you need a tow home Coastguard has your back with free non-urgent assistance.

"Not enough Kiwis understand the role of Coastguard as New Zealand’s primary marine search and rescue organisation. Consequently many of those people who probably need a membership, don't think of getting one or think ‘she’ll be right’ without realising what a membership gives them," Smith says.

Coastguard is a fantastic charity with around 2,000 volunteers across New Zealand dedicated to saving lives at sea. Memberships help fund their on-water emergency service, ensuring Coastguard can be there for boaties 24/7, 365 days a year.

Whether you are a member or not, Coastguard will be there to help boaties regardless. Smith points out an $115 per year membership is better than the $280 cost per hour non-members face for non-urgent assistance - factoring in things like the cost to run their vessels, not to mention valuable volunteer time.

Without a membership, you could pay thousands of dollars for help, because it's not like you can swim home. 

This article was created for Coastguard NZ