Legally Speaking [32]

The gear that NSW Waterways says that you must have with you on the water

By David Winkworth

The other day I picked up a copy of the NSW Waterways Safe Boating Handbook dated April 1997.

On the Safety Equipment pages in the booklet. waters are divided into “Enclosed” and “Open,” and vessel sizes are classified as “under 5m” and “5-8m.” From here they move out of average sea kayak sizes which don’t concern us. Safety equipment for both the above classifications is identical.

I called NSW Waterways to check on the definition of Open Waters. It is any waters not enclosed by a har- bour, river or bay AND any waters where the vessel is more than 400 metres from the nearest shore. This gets interesting when we look at the gear that must be carried. I’ll list the gear for the 2 classifications and the few exemptions that apply to kayaks. You might be surprised!

Enclosed Waters

PFD 1, 2 or 3.

Most of us wear PFD 3’s. PFD 1’s have big neck and chest flotation to keep the wearer’s face out of the water they are also very uncomfortable to paddle in.

To continue:

  • Bucket or bailer.
  • Bilge pump optional.
  • Waterproof Torch. (if operation at night)
  • Anchor, chain and line.
  • Navigation lights (a white light only for kayaks)
  • Sound signals (a loud whistle would suffice I guess).

OK, not too many problems there. We could leave off the anchor and not upset anyone I think. Responsi- ble sea kayakers should have all the other gear. Let’s move on to the next category

Open Waters

The gear listed below is additional to that mentioned above.

  • PFD 1.
  • Marine Radio. Compulsory when operation 2 nautical miles or more off the coast.
  • EPIRB recommended.
  • Flares. 2x red smoke. 2x orange smoke.
  • Orange V sheet.
  • Drinking water. 2 litres / person.
  • Map or chart of area.
  • Compass.
  • Waterproof torch.
  • Required day and night.

The exemptions for canoes/kayaks are: “Occupants MUST wear a PFD except when the craft is: (a) pro- pelled by paddles or oars in en- closed waters during daylight (b ) not being used as a tender (c) so constructed as to stay afloat if cap- sized ~ (d) not more than 400m from the nearest shore.

To be completely legal, your 27MHz marine radio is required to be registered annually for a recur- ring fee of $37.00. If you use a VHF radio the annual fee is $39.00 and you must complete a radio opera- tor’s course.

I spoke to the Australian Communications Authority .They were VERY keen to get my $37.00 a year but couldn’t tell me any benefit I would get for my money.

“I guess it’s just another tax, mate,” I was told.

Now, many of us regularly operate more than 2 nautical miles offshore. In fact, just crossing a coastal bay often puts you much further out than this, so we are very much in the ocean and in open waters category. I, and some club members I paddle with, have problems with the carry- ing (let alone wearing) of a PFD 1 and the carrying of flares. A PFD 1 is terrible to paddle in, inhibiting a wide range of paddle strokes, hard to turn round while wearing one and really bulky while strapped to the back deck where it can seriously add to windage and tracking prob- lems in wind. Putting one in the back hatch is ridiculous -are you seriously going to open the hatch in conditions that warrant the wearing of one?

A bulky PFD 1 strapped to the back deck would also affect rolling properties of a kayak for some paddlers. Earlier this year I did some Sea Instructor training in W.A. It is law also over there that PFD 1 ‘s are carried on open waters and all paddlers attending the course were shit-scared of Boating officers booking them for failure to have one.

Now, the few Boating Safety Officers here that I know are all nice guys and I have never been pulled up along my stretch of coast but Sydney/Wollongong/Newcastle is a different matter . There are always a few officious individuals in any bunch.

I was going to write to NSW Waterways on this matter but then thought it may be better to discuss the issues first at the upcoming AGM before putting a club viewpoint to the Government.

Please have a think about this issue and also about the carrying of flares. My experience is that they are next to useless and we are fortunate to have Laurie Ford from the Maatsuyker Club in Tassie with us for the AGM weekend.

Come along and participate -you may be interested to hear what he has to say on the subject of carrying of flares! If you would like to enquire with NSW Waterways about any issues, you can call them on 131236, 0830-4.30 7 days a week.

Good luck!

David Winkworth