Boating courses available in winter

Only the hardy souls will be out on the water this time of year. The rest of us will be staying warm and dry on shore, which gives us time to prepare for the summer season and even consider online or in-person skippers’ training.

It always astounds me that a lot of boaties out there do not know the rules for the area they are boating in.  There is no requirement for the certification or licensing of recreational powerboat users in relation to knowledge and skill.  That said, I believe we all have a have a responsibility to at least be up to speed with the Maritime New Zealand rules, local navigation safety bylaws (like this one) and general vessel handling skills.  By knowing the rules and adhering to them, the waterways in our region will be lot safer for all users.

Take the roads as an example. If car drivers did not know or adhere to the road rules, mayhem would occur.  That’s why we have minimum standards for each class of licence we hold to drive vehicles. At least a licensed car driver cannot say, “I did not know the rules”.  They have passed a test with minimum knowledge standards.

In the absence of certification or licensing, I think it’s important that skippers take responsibility for knowing and sticking to the rules.  In my work I talk to a lot of boaties and hear people say, “I have been boating this area for years and nothing has ever happened to me; it’s the others who need to know what to do”.  This may be the case in many instances but no one is perfect and risk is always there. As with any recreational activity, preparation and knowledge is the key to being safe.  Maritime New Zealand quite rightly uses the slogan “Nobody is faster than disaster” for its safety campaign.

If you have not completed a basic boating course, I strongly recommend you consider doing one this winter.  It does not matter if you are operating a powerboat, jet ski, yacht, kayak or paddleboard.  Knowledge is power and could save your life one day.

What course should I do and where?

A “day skipper” course is a good starting point, and it can be completed online or by attending a two-day training course.  If you are using a VHF radio, you require a Radio Operator Certificate of Competency.  If you have not completed this, then you may use the VHF only for emergency calls.  Find out more about boating courses from Coastguard Boating Education.