Coastguard bracing for summer

Coastguard Dunedin president Lox Kellas, of Portobello, prepares Harwood youngster Harper Wilson ...
Coastguard Dunedin president Lox Kellas, of Portobello, prepares Harwood youngster Harper Wilson (4) for the water, while Harper's 7-year-old sister Jasmine (left) and neighbour Briar Matthews (9) watch from the Portobello jetty yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Coastguard Dunedin is preparing for a busy summer.

Since receiving a bigger boat with more power almost a year ago, the organisation has spent about $100,000 from grants upgrading the vessel's motors and electronic suite.

Coastguard Dunedin president Lox Kellas said water rescues tended to be seasonal, and although there had been no fatal boating incidents in Dunedin this year, the risk remained.

''You can never expect the expected. It's not until the pager goes that you know there's an incident and it can happen at any time,'' he said.

''This is the time of year when people dig their boat out from under the hedge and put it in the water to go fishing without checking it, just hoping everything will be fine.''

Nationwide, the number of drownings was ''unacceptable'' and this year had been ''a shocker'', Mr Kellas said.

Coastguard Dunedin had been involved in about 15 rescue operations with its new boat, the first of which came just days after the vessel had arrived. In that case a fisherman ''slashed his hand'' and needed assistance.

Other incidents prompting calls to Coastguard Dunedin included three boats which needed towing after becoming ''dead in the water'', Mr Kellas said.

''The latest was on Monday night when a 35ft [10.5m] former fishing boat, now a pleasure vessel, was about 12 miles [20km] off Cape Saunders and there was a problem with the gearbox so they couldn't get any propulsion.

''We had to go out and tow it, Fortunately, sea conditions were good.''

Coastguard Dunedin also received a call to look for a diver in distress, which ended up being a miscommunication, and was on alert when 18 Columba College pupils almost drowned when caught in a rip near Purakaunui in March.

The girls were rescued by surfers and surf life-savers from a nearby club.

Coastguard Dunedin was also involved in a large Search and Rescue operation in June, which simulated a mass casualty cruise-ship disaster in the Otago Harbour, and was on hand for several community events during the year.

Mr Kellas said simple safety measures made a huge difference when it came to preventing trouble in and on the water.

Life jackets needed to be in good condition and fit the wearer, radios and cellphones had to be carried in waterproof bags, and water users must let others know of their plans.

All equipment should be checked to ensure it was in good working order before being used, Mr Kellas said.

''If you obey some simple rules, you can avoid tragedy,'' he said.


Basic water safety
- Check all equipment before use.
- Tell someone your plans.
- Carry a radio or cellphone in a waterproof bag.
- Carry a first aid kit and flares.
- Make sure everyone wears a life jacket which fits them and is in good condition.
- Pay attention to water and weather conditions.
- Refrain from consuming alcohol.


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