While the weather is predicted to be perfect for taking to the water this long weekend, people are being warned that the sea can be particularly dangerous at this time of year.
Labour weekend was traditionally when people took their boats out for the first time for the season, and often did so with little or no preparation, Coastguard New Zealand chief of operations Richard Bray said.
With batteries, fuel, life jackets and communication equipment often sitting unused for a long period, it was vital people checked it was all working properly before taking to the water.
“Often people clock off work on Friday afternoon then head off immediately on Saturday morning without doing any checks.
“Really, it’s just a case of doing an hour or two check of your equipment: get your outboard running in a drum at home, check you have life jackets for every person you have on board and make sure you’ve got enough fresh fuel and communication equipment,” he said.
Water Safety New Zealand general manager Matt Claridge said spring weather was notorious for changing suddenly.
It was important that people paid close attention to marine weather forecasts, listened for regular updates, and left information about where they were going, who they were with and when they planned to return.
“But it’s not just the big kids that need take care in the water: parents must take responsibility for ensuring all members of the family stay safe and proper supervision of young children is of critical importance,” he said.
Maritime New Zealand recreational and small craft manager Jim Lott said spring was a dangerous time of year because, while the weather may be warm, sea temperatures were still at their coldest.
“If you end up in the water, even if (you) get over the initial shock, your muscle strength and coordination is severely affected and you drown long before hypothermia sets in,” he said.
Sixty per cent of boating fatalities could be avoided if everyone in a boat under six metres wore a life jacket.
This could be reduced by 90 per cent if all boaties had a means to report distress, he said.
– Homepage image / Zelda Wynn
– NZPA, NZHERALD.CO.NZ