Boating Safety

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Boating Safety


The most important aspect of boating is safety.

Sometimes recreational boaters all too often take calm water conditions for granted.

We should never forget how quickly the weather can change. A glorious, warm summer day can typically transform calm waters to a boisterous whirlpool when an afternoon ‘southerly buster’ roars up the coast, or when a strong wind whips-up a tranquil lake to something akin a washing machine.


As with boat licences, safety regulations can vary between the states and territories, although there are measures every boat owner should take when venturing out on the water:

Always advise family, friends and relevant marine rescue authorities of your destination and expected return.

Never overload your vessel. All boats these days are required to carry a label signifying the number of people it is authorised to carry.

All vessels, if venturing more than two nautical miles offshore, must be equipped with a 406MHz digital Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). It’s not simply a matter of purchasing a 406MHz EPIRB… you must register it with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA). Registration requires the EPIRB owner to log the vessel name, type, emergency contact details and other information that will assist AMSA should you ever get into trouble while on the water.

A 27MHz or, preferably, VHF marine radio should always be the primary form of communication when on the water (regard your mobile phone only as a back-up communication device).

Ensure lifejackets – if not being worn – are easily accessible, not tucked away in hard-to-reach places (also ensure everyone onboard knows how to fit their lifejackets).

Consider joining your local flotilla of Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association (AVCGA) or similar local authority – like Marine Rescue NSW (MRNSW) or Volunteer Marine Rescue Western Australia (VMRWA). It’s a great way of supporting the people who do such sterling work on behalf of boaters.


Lifejackets are a vital piece of safety equipment when on or near the water. Evolution in design has led to a range of lifejacket styles in positive buoyancy (“foam”) and inflatable. Inflatable lifejackets however require extra care and mandatory servicing to ensure that they will work as intended when needed.

The below information from Transport for NSW’s Centre for Maritime Safety provides information relating to the selection and care of lifejackets, and service for inflatable models. It is intended as a guide only.

When choosing a lifejacket look for the latest current Australian Standard – AS 4758, or international equivalent (check with your local authority for what is recognised in your state).

Click on each state for specific information:


  • Choose the most appropriate lifejacket for your height and weight, ability and water-based activity.
  • There are two common styles of lifejackets – positive buoyancy (“foam”) and inflatable.
  • Foam lifejackets are relatively easy to care for, and require no mandatory servicing.
  • Inflatable lifejackets are less bulky and allow greater ease of movement, but require extra care, and must be serviced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Take time to know the difference and choose what is best for you and your activity.
Find the right lifejacket for you


  • Always perform a pre-wear visual check of any lifejacket to ensure:
    • No visible signs of wear and tear.
    • All buckles zips and straps are not broken and in good condition.
    • With inflatable models you must also check:
      • The CO2 cylinder is full and screwed firmly in, hand tight.
      • The auto cartridge (if an automatic model) is screwed firmly in, hand tight.
      • The pull-cord is clear and ready for use if needed.


  • Check use by date on auto cartridge (if fitted).
  • Check service date.Inspect the CO2 cylinder for corrosion or damage, and the bladder for signs of abrasion and wear.
  • Inflate the bladder using the oral tube, until firm and leave overnight, inspect for any air loss or damage.
  • If the lifejacket is set for auto-inflation, remove the auto-inflation cartridge prior to rinsing.Wash the jacket in warm soapy water and air dry thoroughly.

NOTE: If there are signs of corrosion, wear, damage or leaks, take the lifejacket to a professional service agent or dispose of it appropriately – do not try to repair it yourself.


  • Thoroughly dry the lifejacket and store in a dry and well ventilated place away from direct sunlight.


  • Inflatable lifejackets MUST be serviced once a year or in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Some manufacturers may permit self-servicing.
  • If you use a professional service, make sure that you keep all of your receipts and certificates as confirmation of your service.
More information about lifejacket care and servicing


While safety is paramount in all boating activities, there are additional regulations that apply to PWCs.

Most states and territories require riders to have a PWC licence (in addition to a recreational boat operator’s licence) and you’ll also need to be up to speed with PWC restriction areas and environmental concerns.

Developing operational skills that promote safety and courtesy are imperative. Learning to use the throttle and steering properly, practising high-speed stopping and steering manoeuvres, and scanning the horizon constantly for other boats are some basic starting points.

The key is to be aware of others while on the water, as accidents can happen – and when they do, they happen very fast.

Given all that, enjoying time of the water with a PWC can be an exhilarating experience and great way to hit the water quickly while accessing both unique and popular spots on our waterways.

Waterways We Ride – inland waters

Waterways We Ride – open waters


Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing on the water, remember… if you’re the skipper, you’re responsible!

Register here for more info about recreational boating

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