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Just like driving a car on the road, there are a laws and safety regulations for when you’re out on the water.

Do you know the speed limit in different situations, or the skipper responsibilities? As the skipper it’s on you to know these rules and keep your family, mates and other boaties safe.


Be aware, be safe

The best way to stay safe out on the water is to keep your eyes open and travel at a safe speed. The main causes of collisions between boats is people not keeping an eye on what’s going on around them, and going too fast for the conditions.

The speed limit is 5 knots (a fast walking speed) if you are:

  • within 200m of the shore
  • within 200m of any structure
  • within 200m of a boat displaying a diver’s flag
  • within 50m of any other boat
  • within 50m of a person swimming
  • on a power boat if any person has any part of their body outside the rails or edge of the deck.

Keep an eye on your wake and make sure it isn’t endangering or annoying anyone – mate, it’s just good manners!



A quick way for a good day to go bad is not having lifejackets, or not wearing them when you need to. Maritime Law says you need to carry enough lifejackets of the right size and type for everyone on board. Make sure children are wearing them at all times (with a crotch strap so the jacket doesn’t slip off if they end up in the water), and make everyone wear their lifejacket if it’s starting to look dodgy. It’s just like a seatbelt – lifejackets keep your mates and family safe out there if anything goes wrong.

We recommend that everyone on a recreational boat of 6 metres or less wears a lifejacket at all times while the vessel is underway - it never ruined a day out on the water.


Check the weather

Like they say – if in doubt, don’t go out. The weather can change quickly out on the water, so make sure you’ve checked the forecast before you head out. For up to the minute local weather or 5 day forecasts download the Coastguard app – you won’t want to leave the dock without it in your pocket.


Two forms of communication

Like they also say – if we can’t hear you, we can’t help you. Make sure you take at least two forms of waterproof communication, like a handheld or fixed VHF radio, a mobile phone in a waterproof bag, or a PLB or EPIRB.


Avoid alcohol

Do we need to say more? You wouldn’t drink and drive, so don’t drink and boat. Remember if you drove to the boat ramp you have to drive home again.

All this is covered in the Boating Safety Code (see the link below), an easy one-pager that you’ll find in your Coastguard member’s booklet.


Local bylaws

Different areas in New Zealand have different rules, check them out for your area.

You can read more about boating safety and regulations in our Safety and Regulations section, and on the Maritime New Zealand website. 

The quickest way to get up to speed with all this and more is by doing the Coastguard Day Skipper course, it’s the best overview of all you need to know as a first time skipper. New Coastguard members get $100 off the course and existing members get a discount too. Come on mate, get your ship together!

Boatie's Best Mate.

Get a Coastguard membership today for peace of mind when you’re out boating.