Before you head out there

There is excellent information on boating safety on the Coastguard New Zealand website. Of course your boat is in good nick, you have enough fuel, your motor runs well and your boat battery is fully charged. We’d also like you to think about the following

  • “At sea” means “isolated, hostile environment where help is far away.” Off the Cape, the conditions change for the worse very quickly. Always have a well-fitting lifejacket for each crewmember, a working VHF radio, check a detailed forecast and leave a trip report.
  • How would your partner describe your boat? A white one? Make sure they could accurately tell rescuers what they are looking for and where you have gone. Use the Coastguard Boating Education 2Minute form and give it to someone at home each time you go.
  • Your passengers – do they have a medical condition? Can they swim? Are they experienced on a boat? You must know these answers before taking them anywhere.
  • You can save a crew member if they go overboard, but can they save you? What if the skipper is the emergency? Practice a Man Overboard drill and show everyone how to use the radio to call Coastguard.


  • VHF ch 16 is the emergency channel.
  • VHF ch 84 is Cape Egmont (NOT ALWAYS MANNED)
  • VHF ch 61 is Coastguard Taranaki (New Plymouth)


  • Show your crew the Mayday sticker on the boat which you have already filled in (get them from Coastguard at Port Taranaki) and role play what you would say. Don’t actually call ch16 unless it is an emergency.
  • Everyone on board should have a basic idea of how to stop, start and turn the boat. Show them, don’t assume.
  • If it’s just you and your child, could they drive the boat and make a mayday call if you went overboard? Until they can, take another adult as well.
  • Here at the Cape it gets cold even in summer. Are you prepared for being caught out overnight? Bring warm clothes and rain gear, even if don’t think you’ll need them.
  • Have a strong beamed torch with a long battery life (check the batteries) as well as an EPIRB, charged cell phone and flares. As an absolute last resort, a violently waving torch at sea might be seen from land or by your rescuers.
  • Don’t be shy to call a Pan-Pan (“I’m worried, be prepared to help”) or Mayday (“I need urgent help”) on Ch16 if things are going wrong. Better to cancel a Mayday call than not make one because the boat has sunk.
  • Practice how to make a Pan-Pan or Mayday so it becomes second nature.