Boaties should have to get a licence before taking to the water says the region’s harbour master, or he warns we’re likely to see a death on our waters.
Dave Duncan says “stupid decisions” are putting people’s lives at risk in Nelson and he’d be in favour of a licencing system requiring skippers to undergo a simple course and test before they’re allowed to take to the water. “My 18 year old son could go and buy himself a 60 foot launch without any official or formal training and take it to Wellington and we see that happening and some people are just getting back by the grace of God and luck.”
So far this summer Dave says he and his staff have been called several times to rescue stranded boaties and while there’s been an improvement in the number of people wearing lifejackets there is still the “careless few” that concern him.
“Once again I think we’ve been very lucky we haven’t had a fatality this year, we’ve had people rescued in stupid situations and saved only by their lifejackets or good fortune of other boaties being around.”
He says in one incident a man and his ten year old boy were rescued from a navigation beacon after their boat capsized. They had been clinging to it for hours and Dave says it was only their lifejackets and grabbing a hold of the beacon that stopped them from being swept to sea.
He believes a “simple course” aimed at personal safety and boat handling would be a good idea but doubts it will take off due to the cost of setting it up and the considerable resources that would be needed to get it started. He says there are boat safety courses available in Nelson and urges locals to seek one out. “The water is a pioneer still, it’s a place people can go for adventure but we just want them to be safe in their adventures.”
Fisherman Dave Younghusband of Stoke, who was at the marina on Saturday, says he supports the idea of boaties taking a course or obtaining a licence. “There are a lot of idiots out there and if you break down on the road you’re on land and it’s okay but if you break down out there you don’t have a lot of help if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Shaun Kingston, another fisherman at the marina on Saturday, hinted that a licence would be a good idea, but the logistics and cost might rule that out. “I’ve actually been looking into doing a course just in case something goes wrong. It’s funny you can go buy a boat that can go 100 mp/h and kids can almost drive it,” he says.
“But people scrape up enough money to buy a boat and then you’ve got to pay to run it and spending more money to go through a course would probably put people off.”
Dave Duncan says another major issue is the number of people using the boat ramp and he believes the council needs to build another. “You can have 100 trailers and cars parked up along Akersten St and they’ve all got to get in and out of the same small waterway and then you have kayakers and sailors as well. We definitely need another boat ramp.”
Shaun agreed that there needs to be another boat ramp to prevent congestion on busy days. “You’ve either got to be here at 4:30am or wait until 10am and then there’s not so many people. My mate turned up at 6am and he had to wait an hour before he hit the water.”
Nelson City Council says it is looking at options to improve accessibility and reduce waiting times for vessels using it.