THE CAPTAIN’S TABLE
As a skipper, using good judgment is about understanding how different on-water factors can interact with each other to affect your safety – for example, your speed, other vessel traffic and current weather conditions. The more time you spend on the water, the more natural these decisions become.
Good skippers should have the ability to recognise common on-water risks and apply good judgment to manage them safely. If you are unsure of how to manage any of these potential risk factors, you might need to slow down, change your location, change your vessel or reschedule your trip for another day.
Follow these tips to become master of your liquid domain. Here’s your checklist for marine success:
Licence to Chill
This is your first step. Study the rules, get your boat licence and a whole new world opens up to you – a world of leisure and relaxation.
Just because you have a card in your wallet, doesn’t mean you know everything. Your licence is simply the start of a rewarding lifetime of liquid learning.
It’s important that you know your limits – particularly in those early days – and avoid taking risks. As the skipper, it’s your responsibility to keep everyone safe.
Make a checklist before setting off for a day on the water, because there’s nothing worse than getting out there and realising you left your supplies like sunscreen, water bottles, or, heaven forbid, bait, in the back seat of the car back at the ramp.
Also make sure you have the right safety equipment on board and that it’s in good working order.
The Twice Over
Before leaving home, check the safety of your boat and trailer. Before launching, check the boat again, make sure all the safety equipment is working, bungs are in if you’re taking your personal watercraft (PWC) out, and everything is ship shape.
Make sure your vessel is suitable for the conditions. As you enter the water, remember: a lifejacket can only save your life if you’re wearing it.
Build a decent knowledge of the Bureau of Meterology (BOM) website, and check the forecast before and during your trip. Weather can change quickly, and you don’t want to get caught out by a sudden change in conditions – pay close attention to winds, waves and warnings.
Plot Your Course
Know where you’re going and let people know your plans, such as using your radio to let the Coast Guard know you’re crossing the bar or letting your partner know what part of the river you’re planning to fish later that day. Download the MarineRescue app on your phone and make sure to log on and off with Marine Rescue NSW for every trip. This one could save your life.
It’s a must that you bring the correct maps, apps and tide charts. And always have a backup. It also pays to do pre-trip research into what the bottom is like and how deep it is, even if you don’t plan on travelling at low tide.
Be well-equipped with lifejackets, flares, VHF radio, phone and EPIRB. Just as importantly, know how to use them.
The Crow’s Nest
From the boat’s bridge, you are the eyes and ears of your boat. You want to confidently guide your vessel and passengers to the good times and avoid potential hazards.
Always keep a proper lookout; if maintaining a good lookout becomes difficult or stressful, it probably means you are going too fast for the conditions. If so, slow down.
Space Is Your Friend
Due to the unpredictable nature of a liquid surface, by giving other boats plenty of room, you also give yourself plenty of time to react safely. If another vessel is way off course, it’s your foresight that will save the day.
The First Mate
Whether you’re on a small boat ramp, or in a large shipping lane, always show courtesy to other boaties, swimmers, fishos and surfers. By being a worthy first mate, you’ll make plenty of new mates.
By watching your speed and alcohol intake, the only attention you’ll get from the Marine Area Command Police Officerswill be a polite wave. Stay under the 0.05 limit and be mindful that alcohol affects your judgment.
Don’t attempt to cross tricky bars, speeding currents or crashing wave zones. It’s never worth it. Always err on the side of caution rather than being on the receiving end of risky, unforgiving conditions. If in doubt, don’t go out.