EPIRB AND BOAT SAFETY UPDATE
Two recent ocean incidents highlighted the need to have all the required safety gear readily available and even extra equipment that could save your boat or your life. The first callout was one of the increasing incidents at Margaret River mainbreak, involving windsurfers or kite surfers. Once the call from the police came in advising of a kite surfer washed out near The Box, the Sea Rescue phone conferlink system was immediately activated. Within eight minutes a jet ski crew was ready to launch from Gnarabup and three landbased radio operators were positioning themselves to relay vital information as required. Luckily the guy was washed onto the reef and spotted making the lonely walk along the Rivermouth beach, fortunately not badly injured. It seems more and more people are getting caught out with the late afternoon shift from southwest to southeast winds, which obviously means they are being blown out to sea with most of the incidents involve travellers, perhaps not familiar with the area. The state regulations require any windsurfer/kitesurfer beyond 400metres in unprotected waters ( that’s everyone at mainbreak ) to wear a Level 50s PFD and carry either a flare kit ( totally impractical ) or a 406 Personal Locator Beacon ( PLB ). I understand perfectly that ‘stuff’ attached to windsurfers and kite surfers can be a pain in the bum, but with just a little effort and minimal cost, it is easy to fit. All it needs is a small velcroed pocket sewn into the PFD, as we have done for our VHF radios on the sea rescue jet skis ( see attached photo ). The latest PLBs are the size of 2 matchboxes, have a 10 year battery life, can be registered for land ( great for remote 4 wheel driving or hiking ) and sea and most importantly will pinpoint your position to within twenty metres. Not a bad investment for under $300. Don’t really want to think about one of these callouts, late in the day, kitesurfer does not self rescue on the reef, or worse still caught up in the rigging and volunteers out trying to find you in the dark!
The other incident involved a vessel capsizing while pulling craypots near Grunters. Apparently the lone boatie had craypot rope tangled around the prop and things probably happened pretty quickly after that. Being anchored from the stern is extremely hazardous in swell and is one of the reasons why I always have a quality safety knife ( not for fishing ) on the console ready for any emergency. Not saying it would have saved this boat, which ended up on the reef, but I would be cutting the rope quick smart and then either anchoring immediately to put the bow into the waves or untangling the prop and get out of there. Even trying to raise the motor will shorten the rope and likely speed up the capsize, so going over the side with the knife may be the best option and another good reason to wear an inflatable PFD at all times. Fortunately this boatie also made it safely to shore, with a Sea Rescue and MRSLSA jet ski again on scene very quickly, but unable to recover the vessel.
Finally, for those with EPIRBs in their vessels, friendly reminder that you are required to have evidence of it’s registration on board ( copy of rego form or photo on your phone ). Local Cowtown boatie, Lionel West, rang me last week to clarify this as a mate of his was fined $60 for not being able to comply.