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Boating Safety

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As the skipper, you must keep a proper lookout – by sight and hearing – at all times. This helps you judge your situation and the risk of collision. This is essential to keeping everyone safe on the water.

When keeping a proper lookout, look all around, including behind you. Look out for hazards so you can avoid colliding with people, other vessels, structures, land and animals. Look out for vulnerable groups, including swimmers and divers, and smaller vessels, such as sailboards and kayaks, which can be difficult to see.

Be mindful of noise – such as loud music – that could prevent you from hearing sounds or signals from other vessels or people.

Take extra care at times of restricted visibility, for example, at night (between sunset and sunrise) or in poor weather conditions.

Make sure you're travelling at a safe speed. If you have a radar, use it to keep a lookout. Remember to dim the display at night so you do not lose your night vision.

It's recommended that you have a lookout person. They can alert you if your view is blocked.

Keep a proper lookout for the following:

  • People in the water, including swimmers, snorkellers, spearfishers and divers. Make sure you keep a safe distance.

  • Other vessels on the water. This includes small vessels, such as sailboards, kayaks and dinghies, and large vessels, such as ships and ferries.

  • Structures, including bridges, jetties and overhead powerlines.

  • Submerged hazards include sandbanks and sunken vessels. Fishing equipment – for example, oyster leases, traps and lobster pots – can also be hazards.

  • Floating hazards, such as logs and debris. Take extra care at night, as these hazards are unlit.

  • Animals in the water.

When towing

Keep a lookout when you're towing a person, for example, a water skier. Both the driver and the observer must keep a lookout.

Before towing, it's recommended that you check the area for any hazards. These include floating debris, sandbars or snags. Take extra care on unfamiliar waterways or in areas that have recently flooded.

Tips to stay safe:

  • Always keep a safe distance from the shore, structures other craft and people in the water

  • Look out for dive flags and keep your vessel at least 60 metres clear of divers

  • If keeping a proper lookout gets hard or stressful, slow down and give yourself more time to see what is happening around you

  • If you have other people on board, get them to help you keep a proper a lookout

  • Be especially careful when in heavy boating traffic, darkness, poor visibility, near blind corners or when there are lots of people in the water.

Key References:

NSW Centre for Maritime Safety

Marine Rescue NSW

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