Prepare now for safe winter boating

FOR many Tasmanians, the coming winter marks the end of the boating season. Yet, there are still ample opportunities to go boating for those undeterred by the cold, regardless of vessel type. Winter boating offers distinct advantages. On days of settled weather, the absence of afternoon sea breezes extends the boating hours, promising more time on the water. Moreover, popular areas are often less crowded.

However, boating in winter demands additional precautions. Cooler air temperatures correlate with colder water temperatures, increasing the risk of cold-water immersion. It’s crucial to recognise that your body loses heat 25 times faster in water than in air. With Tasmanian water temperatures often dipping below 15 degrees and sometimes as low as 10 degrees, cold water immersion poses a significant threat, accounting for over 60% of fatalities in Tasmania since 2001.

To mitigate risks, boaters must ensure their life jackets are properly serviced and safety equipment is readily accessible and well-maintained. Owners of older vessels dating from the 1970s to 2000 should particularly check buoyancy levels. Retrofitting buoyancy by filling voids and spaces with foam is a relatively simple yet effective solution. MAST offers a helpful buoyancy video guide for this purpose.

In the unfortunate event of sinking, vessels fitted with buoyancy provide a crucial advantage, aiding in access to safety gear and increasing visibility for rescuers. Nonetheless, prevention remains paramount. Wearing a life jacket, and appropriate clothing and carrying essential safety equipment substantially enhance survival chances. Whenever possible, boating with a companion is advisable. If you are boating alone, it is vital to wear a kill cord and always inform someone of your intended route and expected return.

When inspecting your safety equipment, it’s crucial to thoroughly examine your Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). These devices typically have a 10-year battery life, and you can easily verify the expiry date by locating the battery symbol on the main unit.

Additionally, all EPIRBs should be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) through the online portal. This allows you to input your vessel particulars and emergency contacts, facilitating quicker assistance in case of an emergency. Regularly reviewing and updating this information is highly advisable.

Prioritising preventive maintenance during winter ensures vessels are in optimal condition. Regular structural inspections, professional engine servicing, and comprehensive checks of trailers and electronics are indispensable routines for boat owners.

If you have a fibreglass vessel, it is a good idea to tilt the motor up slightly and apply gentle upward pressure to the engine while inspecting the transom area where it attaches to the hull. If you detect any movement, it’s crucial to seek professional advice promptly. For aluminium boats, it’s important to inspect for cracked welds and signs of electrolysis.

Winter boating, while undeniably cold, offers unparalleled opportunities for exploration and camaraderie. With good planning and compliance with the safety requirements, Tasmanians can have a wonderful and safe winter boating season.

Remember: Don’t let the next trip be your last.

Peter Hopkins,
MAST Recreational Boating & Safety General Manager

See more Derwent Valley and Central Highlands news online and read our print edition every second Friday.

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