Maritime NZ: Fatigue, losing cell reception, and lack of daylight hidden boating risks

19 October 2021

Fatigue, cell reception and daylight are some boating risks not top of mind for boaties, the latest recreational boating research from IPSOS shows.

Sharyn Forsyth, Maritime NZ Deputy Director and Chair of the Safer Boating Forum says while boaties are thinking more about safety on the water overall, there is work to do when it comes to planning for risks.

“The latest survey shows that well-known and accepted boating risks like rapids, rocks and bar crossings are of most concern for 25% of boaties and can be planned for, but other risks are less of a priority.

“It’s clear from the survey that boaties are not thinking much about, or planning for, things such as lack of daylight, fatigue or the lack of cell phone reception for emergencies. Many people aren’t confident using a VHF radio or checking the marine weather forecast.

These risks can arise more suddenly and with very little, if any, warning. Conditions can change suddenly on the water, and being able to call for help is crucial if you get in trouble.

“If we take fatigue as an example, safer boating research shows that although most people are aware of fatigue, very few recognise all the warning signs, beyond the obvious of feeling tiredness and overlook other symptoms like ‘slow responses’ and ‘risk taking’.

These hidden impacts are known to impact people’s decision making, which may result in people taking shortcuts in order to reach their destination.

“Having a ‘Plan B’ for fatigue or a lack of daylight could be as simple as having a skilled second fresh pair of hands on board to step in if fatigue steps in or lowering speeds during night-time hours,” says Sharyn.

The survey showed around a third of boaties admit to undertaking no planning before their trip, they ‘just went’.

“Everyone should make sure their gear is safe and fit for purpose and there are two ways to call for help if you need it. Pack the right safety equipment you need to operate your craft.

While the number of recreational boating deaths remains low in Northland, in remote areas may take longer to get rescued.

Visit for more information on how to stay safe while out on the water.

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