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Heading out on the water? Here's your checklist of key things to take when you're headed out on the water.

Enclosed waters

Staying close to shore, or in a sheltered bay? You still need the essentials to enjoy the day on the water safely!

  • Lifejackets. Like wearing safety belts in a moving car, wearing a lifejacket is a no-brainer. These days they're comfortable and lightweight, with half-a-dozen types to suit your boating. By law, you need enough lifejackets for everyone on board, and if you're on a boat under 6m in length you (and your mates) need to wear them at all times. Lifejackets save lives, so don't hit the water without the right one on. 
  • Communication equipment. Great to share the fishing tips with your mates in another boat, but also vital if you run into any sort of trouble. Make sure you have at least two waterproof forms of communication - this can be as simple as cellphone in a zip-lock bag and a marine VHF radio, but also consider flares and an emergency beacon.

  • Anchor and sufficient chain. Hovering over your  favourite fishing spot or jumping off the boat to check out that nearby island is a lot more enjoyable when you know the right anchor is holding your boat in place. The anchor should weigh at least 1.5kg per metre of your boat length (so if your boat is 6.6m, go for an anchor weighing at least 10kg) and should have enough chain to sort you out, no matter where you rest up.

  • Bailing system. Even if you have a bilge pump, it's a good idea to carry a bucket or bailer too - if the pump stops working a bucket is a fail-safe, and it can be used to put out fires. Square buckets are handy as the bottom of your boat isn't generally round!

  • Fire extinguisher. A boat fire is a nightmare, so if you have any sort of cooking or heating appliance aboard make sure you carry a fire extinguisher suitable for your boat. Even small boats carry a lot of fuel which can be a fire hazard.

  • First aid kit. A no-brainer in case a hook gets caught in a finger, don't forget to include a pair of pliers (suitable for cutting hooks) and sea-sickness tablets (for when the kids can't handle the swells). Don't forget the sunscreen!  

  • Rope. Always carry a few metres of heavy duty rope - you never know when it might come in handy, whether it's docking or tying up to a mate's boat while out fishing!

Open waters

Heading out further? Don't forget to add these items to your boat before you head out to your favourite fishing spot.

  • Flares. When the electronics fail or you can't get searchers to spot you on the water, a flare can make all the difference. They take up very little room and have a long lifespan, making it a great supplement to your emergency beacon, VHF radio and cellphone.

  • Navigational aids. If you're headed more than a mile offshore, you're going to need charts and a compass to help guide you back - you can't always rely on your electronics alone. Don't forget to think about when you'll be back - if it's likely to be after dusk, you're going to need to know how to read channel markers so you may want to check out the Day Skipper course

  • An emergency beacon. An EPIRB or PLB is great if you're heading a little further out, away from other boaties and out of range of VHF and cellphone. If you run into major trouble, all you need to do is trigger one button - the satellites and GPS on the waterproof beacon do the rest for you, sending a continuous signal to the Rescue Coordination Centre in Wellington. Note not all beacons have GPS or are waterproof.

    Modern beacons stay active for at least 12 hours, giving searchers your exact location (to within metres) so help can come straight to you in an emergency. 

Every time you hit the water

You can never be prepared for everything, whether it's a flat battery or something more serious, so make sure you've got your Coastguard membership sorted before you hit the water. If you run into trouble, Coastguard will have your back! Membership is only $115 a year, so sign up today.

Enjoy your boating out there!

Boatie's Best Mate.

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