She’ll be right.  I know boats.  I’ve been on the water all my life.  Pfft, it’ll never happen to me.  I’ve done it a thousand times.

So you’re going to venture out on to the water and you want to make it back, alive, and in one piece.  As I approach half a thousand rescues, there are a few things I would like to pass on that you may not of thought of, that are important that you currently don’t know or ignore, or should just become common practice.  I’m going to break this down in to half a dozen different areas, all are important, and it’s what you take on automatically when heading out on to the water.

In case you’re wondering, the two people above are the Captain of the H.M.S. Titanic (1500 deaths), and the Costa Concordia (32 deaths).


Boats (vessels) are female, at one stage Lloyds of London considered that boats could either be male or female, but it was deemed that wasn’t the case.

As the vessel owner, or the Master of a vessel, you need to tend to the vessels needs in both maintenance and operation, and it’s the size and the type of vessel which will determine the annual and on going costs. A lot of people play this down, ignore it, or are just plan irresponsible, and one of the main culprits are live-a-board and houseboats.  The pipe dream of buying a boat and having a beautiful ocean back yard free to sail where ever you please I would suggest starts at about $30,000 per year, and goes up fast.  If you’re not prepared to drop $550-600 a week in the ocean, every week all year, year after year you’re not ready to have a live a board vessel.  (prices listed do not include the buying of the vessel).

Ignoring husbandry is common, and in Queensland alone the government has removed more than 1000 wrecks in 30 months and still has more to go.  Depending on the size of the vessel, an average sized sailing yacht or motor cruiser is generally about $40,000 to remove which gets billed back to the owner, most are not insured.  If the owner can’t pay, it’s permanently put against them, with payment arrangements set up.

As part of the community consultation process, I put to the government that every vessel that is both over 10m and 20 years old, will have to provide a certificate of seaworthiness every three years when renewing it’s registration, or have 7 days to leave the water.  A lot of people hated this idea, especially people on restricted budgets who don’t maintain their vessel that is over 20 years old and over 10m.  That is particularly my exact point, it’s these people that are on the path to their vessel sinking out of neglect based on lack of sufficient financial status put toward husbandry.   I don’t care if it’s “your home”, you have a responsibility to maintain it to a reasonable to high standard, if you can’t afford it, get another job, or sell the craft and down size to something you can afford, even if that means a Brisbane Citycat ticket.

For smaller trailerable vessels, maintenance is a lot easier and affordable.  More importantly, you can just tow it somewhere and someone can fix it for you.  To do this, you have to maintain or have maintained your trailer, particularly, your trailer bearings.  Electronics and batteries are also important to maintain and it’s a good idea to own both a battery charger, and a multimeter to assist you with your efforts.

Your passengers, crew and you.

The first point, is that it’s in that order.  You’re last, you’re the last person off the boat, you’re the last person to eat or drink, and you’re the last person to speak.

It goes without saying that you’ll have enough safety gear on your vessel for everyone, it goes without saying that you’ll make sure everyone has a life jacket on when crossing a coastal bar, and it goes without saying that you’ll operate your vessel in accordance to the relevant regulations and laws of the government bodies that over see that district, state, territory, or country.

After you meet those requirements, then you can have ideas of your own.  It’s been my experience when out rescuing and assisting people on the water, that Jet Skis are at least half of the work load.  They have their place, but they are often driven at 90 – 100% throttle, used for jumping, free styling, and lack some really basic items off the factory floor like navigation aids, navigation lights, bilge pumps, inbuilt floatation, and shade.  At 100kmh, you might be able to see something on the water 50m away, the problem is you’ll hit it in less than 2 seconds.  People understand that doing burnouts and drifting on public streets in a car is dangerous and considered “reckless endangerment”, but for some reason people can’t transfer that to operation of a vessel on the water.

Dying isn’t out of the question, with about 30 people reaching that stage every year in Queensland alone on the waterways.  It’s my hope, that with posting this information more people will have a broader knowledge of safe boating practices, make a full appraisal of their safety on the water and enjoy a wonderful time on our beautiful coastline.

The environment, flora and fauna.

I fish, out of boats, out of my kayaks, I put the fish back after a photo.  If I catch a fish and it dies in the process, I look around for an eagle, kite or pelican that may want lunch.  Then I buy a burger on the way home.  I don’t care if you catch fish to keep them, just do it sustainably, and meet the local limits of size and quantity.

Importing of 2 stroke engines is restricted because for every 100 litres of fuel used, 1-2 litres of oil goes in to the ocean.


Safe operation.

Professional Jet Ski freestyle riders expect to get an average of 17 hours out of a hull before it splits.  Read that again.

Towing a skier, surfer, or a tube behind a Jet Ski is legal, but using a recreational registered Jet Ski to do tow in surf rescues is illegal in Queensland, as it’s almost impossible to meet the rules especially in heavy weather.  Professional surfers out surfing in large storm swell is not an excuse to take your recreational ski out in to the ocean especially when beaches are closed and recreational surfers are doing their best to surf in the conditions.  Recreational surfers should not be out there, and recreational boat and Jet Ski operators should also not be out there, as it breaks the terms of their licence, safe operation of a vessel, and would void any insurance.  You may also get a fine.

One day a few years ago I was the radio operator at a coastal radio station.  I received a call from a Jet Skier that had engine malfunction due to a rope getting caught in his intake, when his mate came over to help, it fouled his intake too.  I immediately dispatched a rescue crew to the location, which was a coastal bar with an out going tide.    It was a 12 minute trip, then I notified the Water Police.  5 minutes after dispatching the rescue crew I received another call from the same person which lasted about 6 seconds before the phone cut out because they were in breaking swell and were thrown from their craft, in to the water.

Moments later when the rescue vessel arrived at the coastal bar, it was deemed too rough to safely transverse the bar, with big green waves 2.5 -3 metres high.  I then immediately called the Water Police back, notified them of the updated situation and requested a Rescue Helicopter with a swimmer and a winch.  Again, co-operation from partner agencies was immediate and a phone call was received from the helicopter crew asking for the particulars.  Two people, outside the coastal bar, out going tide, from two Jet Skis.  Time in the water 18 minutes.  Both were rescued by the rescue helicopter with the rescue boat crew staying inside the bar available for further assistance.  One of the riders was taken to hospital for ingestion of salt water.

The kicker, the same guy was picked up by the same helicopter rescue crew exactly 12 months later off the Gold Coast.  

Standing orders.

Standing orders are rules put in place by the owner of the craft or the Captain.  They can be anything, but the rules I had for my previous boat was 6 knots in unfamiliar waters with a depth of less than 2 metres, and idle for waters under 1m.  I’ve been in a marked channel on the Gold Coast, that was only 600mm deep at low tide, and coastal bars are all over the place at the moment, with Mooloolaba silting up heavily constantly and Currumbin Bar almost completely closed at half tide.

                                                     The volume at which you speak does not make the things you say more accurate


 Other people out on the water, and in the community.

 These issues are mostly covered by local and state regulations.  Don’t speed around anchored vessels, people in the water, swimming areas, boat ramps, people diving which are hopefully displaying an “A” flag, and so on.  This also means not having a wash from your vessel, distances are 30m for boats and 60m for Jet Skis.

So one day years ago I was on a vessel that had another vessel, a house boat, under tow maintaining a speed of about 6 knots.  A person in a flybridge semi displacement cruiser past us at about 25 knots putting out a 1.5 m stern wake, which violently threw around the houseboat.  Even when meeting the rules for distance, you are still responsible to the damage your vessel wash does.


Collision regulations.

Click here to see the full text

Essentially the Collision Regulations are international’s rules for operation of a maritime vessel, you’ll also see them in sail boat racing.

In short, it tells you what the over arching rules are, what you can do, what you can’t do, the lights and sounds your craft should admit and when, but the best description is just to go and read them.  If you’re passionate about being out on the water, you’ll like reading it. 




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