Volunteer marine rescue groups around Australia are currently gearing up for their usual seasonal spike in activity as people respond to the warmer weather by getting their boats out of storage and heading out on the water. Already they are reporting an upsurge in calls for help and the coming few months are expected to see even more boaters in strife as many freshwater waterways are likely to see the highest usage they’ve had in years.
This past 12 months has seen a huge upsurge in rainfall across much of the eastern seaboard of Australia, in particular, revitalising many of the country’s rivers and lakes, with the Murray River and lakes like Victoria’s Eildon experiencing extraordinary flows of water. The result is that, in Eildon as in many other inland waterways, people are flocking back to take advantage of the many boating options now available.
This is great for local businesses and welcomed by the marine industry as a whole, as more boat usage ultimately translates to more business. And from a lifestyle perspective, it is great to see so many people out on the water enjoying themselves with family and friends.
But the flipside is that inland waterways, by their very definition, are confined areas, providing relatively finite room for people to go boating. If you add more people, it follows that there are likely to be more incidents in which boats are damaged or people are injured.
This is particularly so when you factor in the most popular activities carried out on freshwater, such as water- and tow-sports, for instance. PWCs, ski- and wake-boats abound on our lakes and rivers over the warmer months and all of these activities tend to involve multiple craft moving at speed. When you combine this with relatively confined waterways and blind spots in the form of river bends, there is potential for collisions, either between boats or between boats and objects such as markers and trees or floating debris. These are the types of incidents we here at Club Marine are all too familiar with at this time of year, but with more freshwater options now on offer, we all need to be more aware of the potential for things to go wrong.
There is also another aspect that may impact on safety on our inland waterways this summer. Due to our prolonged drought conditions, with many lakes and rivers having dried up over the past decade or so, plenty of boats have been tucked away in storage for lengthy periods.
Now many of these same craft will shortly be back on the water and we can only hope that they have received due maintenance in the meantime. Areas like cable controls, engine fuel and cooling systems and electronics need thorough checking prior to putting a boat back in the water after a lengthy dry spell. Applying tools and working on a boat when it’s out on the water is not good for the skipper and crew, and certainly not for any other boaters who may happen to be enjoying themselves nearby.
I’d encourage anyone taking their boat out of hibernation to check out the NSW BIA and Marine Rescue NSW excellent 50 Point Safety Check at the dedicated website: www.50pointcheck.com.au. While it is primarily intended as a NSW-only safety service offered by authorised specialist providers, it makes worthwhile reading and reference for anyone who intends using a boat. And for NSW Club Marine members, there is even a $50 discount for anyone who wishes to have their craft checked upon renewal of their policy.
As fellow boaters, we certainly encourage all of our members to make the most of the coming warmer weather, but we’d also urge everyone to take some time to consider their surroundings and keep a sharp eye out for other boaters as more boats on the water can mean more chances for something to go wrong.
In the meantime, we look forward to catching up over the coming months and on behalf of all of the team at Club Marine around Australia and New Zealand, we wish you all a thoroughly enjoyable and safe boating season.
CEO and Publisher,