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A new Boating Safety Education Centre has just opened at the former Pilot
Station site in Watsons Bay on Sydney Harbour.
The new centre caters for young boaters of all abilities and will be a great asset
for the Sydney region. The centre has a new ramp and pontoon, a fleet of small
power and sail vessels, and a refurbished building complete with classroom, boat
storage and change room facilities. The new centre specifically caters for boaters
with a disability, with full accessibility and specially designed sailing craft.
Thousands of young people are expected to visit the centre over coming years and
learn about boating safety through education and practical training from experts.
Students will gain small boat experience in a safe sheltered environment, while
also being taught important safety habits, like always wearing a lifejacket when
out on the water. The centre will bring the joys of boating to many students who
otherwise might not have access to this wonderful pastime.
While learning how to use small boats safely, students will also gain an
appreciation of the local environment – including the clean waters and diverse
marine life around the centre. As part of a broader project to enhance the habitat
value of boating infrastructure, some ‘fish attractors’ have already been attached
underneath the new pontoon at the centre.
The Maritime Management Centre and the NSW Government have worked
closely with key partners such as the Boating Industry Association, the Marine
Teachers Association, Yachting NSW, Paddle NSW and Sailability in making the
Boating Safety Education Centre a reality. The local community has provided
valuable feedback and support. The NSW Government provided $1.2 million
towards the project.
Recent boating statistics
The need to make safe boating a habit from a young age has been driven home
by the 18 boating fatalities recorded in NSW over the last 12 months. While
this is close to the long-term average, it is much higher than last year’s total of
In terms of long-term trends, the fatal incident rate per 100,000 recreational
vessels continues to fall, albeit slowly and with a lot of ‘bouncing around’ in the
The latest fatality number reminds us that boating safety is an ongoing challenge
when boating we need to make lifejacket wear a habit, watch the weather,
tell someone where we are going and make sure we have adequate means of
communication if trouble arises.
While overall boating incident data for the full Financial Year was not available
at going to press, data from back in May suggests that the total number of
recreational boating incidents will finish the year well below average – which
is a good thing.
Some safety reminders
By now the days are getting longer and a few of those lovely warm August
days have probably appeared. Many people will eagerly take the opportunity
to get back out on the water... however that water will still be surprisingly
cold. Even once spring proper arrives, the water will be much colder than the
air temperatures and strong sunshine might suggest. Water temperatures lag
well behind land temperatures, and if you fall in during an early season boating
session you’ll certainly know about it. Simple solution – wear your lifejacket!
As was discussed in the last issue, a lifejacket will support you while you recover
from the sudden ‘cold shock’ of being forced into cold water. It may well save
Just how effective lifejackets can be at saving lives is illustrated by some long-term
statistics on boating fatalities related to the crossing of ocean bars. These bars
are subject to large waves, strong currents and shallow sand banks. Conditions
on ocean bars can change very quickly and can be very dangerous for small
craft. In October 2003 it became compulsory for all persons crossing an ocean
bar to wear a lifejacket. Since then, annual bar crossing fatalities have fallen by
approximately 60%, even though the overall rate of bar crossing incidents has
remained about the same.
While there has been a clear improvement in bar-crossing safety in terms of lives
saved, boats continue to get into some very dangerous situations when crossing
bars – and recent statistics suggest that the northern part of the State’s coastline
is a particular concern. Here there are a number of large coastal bars and plenty
of boaters who want to cross them to go offshore. An analysis of incident types
recorded back to 2010 shows that the northern part of the NSW coast accounted
for more than 80% of incidents described as “bar crossing incidents”. This
section of the coast also accounted for more than 80% of incidents deemed to
have been caused by “bar conditions”.
While inshore waters are often very calm at this time of year, big swells generated
from a distant low pressure system can pump in with little warning – making
many coastal bars quite dangerous.
AIMING FOR SAFER BOATING
Teaching the younger generation
Kids enjoy the new Boating Safety Education Centre at Watsons Bay.
Take the time to get it right when crossing a bar... otherwise you might
come a cropper like the owner of this vessel, who was lucky to survive.
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