On the water

Going out on the water is a great part of the Territory lifestyle, but safety is essential – no one wants a disaster. The only way to make sure your boating trip is the relaxing experience you planned, is to think ‘boating safety’, before, during and after your voyage.


  • don’t over estimate your boat
  • don’t over estimate your ability as a sailor
  • check the weather forecasts
  • study a chart of the area
  • check all equipment
  • carry a checklist of safety gear
  • tell someone where you are going
  • tell someone when you return or have arrived at your destination
  • carry out checks with another station on your marine radio before proceeding to sea
  • register a small craft particulars form with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra. This will assist with a rescue operation should you run into trouble. Call 1800 641 792 for more information.

Safety gear checklist

  • two compasses, one fitted and one hand-held for taking bearings of points ashore
  • marine radio
  • a distress beacon or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)
  • inflatable life raft or tender
  • life jackets (enough for all on board) fitted with whistle and salt water activated light
  • orange ‘V’ sheet
  • flares and orange smoke markers
  • heliographic distress signalling mirror
  • area dye marker
  • life buoys, with flag marker buoy and strobe light or flashing buoy light attached
  • marine overboard buoyant recovery line and attached float
  • two strong lanyard baling buckets with lanyards attached
  • manually operated bilge pumps
  • softwood or rubber plugs for blocking hull openings
  • two water resistant, floating torches with spare bulbs and batteries, or one torch and one set of chemically activated light sticks
  • two anchors with chain (or wire) and warp, one designed for heavy weather and the other for fair weather
  • oars or paddles as appropriate
  • emergency steering arrangement, eg tiller
  • tools, repair and spare gear kits for engine, rigging and sails as appropriate
  • fire extinguishers
  • emergency ‘grab bag’, stowed adjacent to the distress beacon (EPIRB), carrying basic survival equipment plus survival rations of water and high energy foods.


  • keep in radio contact with your local base station. If for any reason you have to divert from your original sail plan, let them know. Otherwise, if you get into trouble, rescuers may have trouble finding you.
  • listen for official strong wind or gale warnings from coastal radio stations and also weather reports that may be broadcast by other boats.
  • be prepared to turn back to shore if the weather turns bad or equipment gives you trouble. A collective decision to press on regardless is often fatal.
  • don’t go so far out that you may have trouble getting back in time.
  • make regular checks on your exact position and make a note of it in case you need it in an emergency.
  • travel at a speed to suit the sea conditions.
  • if sailing, adjust sail area to suit wind strength.
  • enjoy yourself, but never take unnecessary risks.


  • sign off the base station on your radio.
  • make sure that all your sail plan contacts know that you have completed your trip.
  • stow away all your gear carefully, replace any supplies which were used, and repair any equipment that failed to operate during the voyage. The safest way to set out is in a properly maintained boat.

Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority