Lucky escape on Wellington Harbour a reminder of the need to be safe on the water

20 March 2024

While picking up buoys following a regatta in early February, Brent Porter, manager at Sailability Wellington, spotted something that looked out of place out in the harbour.

In gusty conditions, with a northerly blowing up to 25 knots, Brent saw two men in a small un-powered inflatable, no more than a few metres in length, between Somes Island and Lowry Bay in Wellington Harbour.

“This was a new, very small inflatable, they had plastic paddles, but there was no way they were going to be able to get themselves to safety needing to paddle against the current,” he says. “If I didn’t pick them up, this could have easily become a tragic incident.”

Once Brent reached the inflatable, it was clear the men were underprepared. “Neither were wearing lifejackets, they hadn’t told anyone where they were going, didn’t have any warm clothes, and hadn’t checked the marine forecast.”

Brent has been sailing out on Wellington Harbour for forty years, and says everything people are recommended to do to stay safe on the water, these two failed to do.

“It was a bit of a shock. The men were very thankful to be picked up and taken safely back to shore. After dropping them off, I had a bit of a chat to them to ensure they knew how close they were to disaster and how to be better prepared on the water.”

Maritime NZ’s Principal Advisor Recreational Craft, Matt Wood, says the two men were very fortunate Brent Porter spotted them.

“On average 17 people die a year while out on recreational craft, with the vast majority being on small recreational craft such as this one and not wearing lifejackets,” Matt says.

“Locations such as Wellington Harbour can be quite deceiving. Often from shore the water can look calm, but just off-shore it can get choppy and the drift can quickly take unpowered vessels off-shore.

“Once you’re caught in the current, it’s incredibly difficult to get the vessel around and come back to shore.

“With no forms of communication, lifejackets, or understanding of the marine forecast, if Brent didn’t come to their rescue, who knows how badly this could have ended up.”

For more information on how to be safe on the water, head to:

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