If you can’t be heard, you can’t be helped…

Always carry torches or flares on-board your vessel.

Wearing your lifejacket helps to prevent you from drowning, but if you can’t call for help then no-one can rescue you, says Waikato Regional Council’s team leader of maritime services Richard Barnett.

“Waterproof communication tools are one of the most essential things to take boating to increase your chances of survival when faced with an on-water incident.

“If you can attach your communication tools to your lifejacket, so they’re worn at all times, that’s even better!”

Richard says now – as people begin to enjoy being in and on the water this spring and summer – is the ideal time to learn what type of communications are best suited for coastal or inland waterways.

“And also to ensure you are carrying at least two suitable forms while you’re out boating this summer.”

Here’s a rundown of communication tools available.

Marine VHF radio

A waterproof VHF radio is the most reliable way to call for help when out in coastal waters, but only if you know how to use it.

“The biggest advantage is everyone tuned to channel 16 can hear your call for help, especially Coastguard and Maritime Radio,” says Richard.

“However, VHF may not always be suitable for inland rivers and lakes because of limited radio coverage.”

Any person operating a maritime VHF radio must hold, as a minimum requirement, a Maritime VHF Radio Operator Certificate, unless transmitting in an emergency or a distress situation on channel 16. Certification is available through Coastguard Boating Education. See: boatingeducation.org.nz or call 0800 40 80 90 for more information.

For VHF channels check, the MarineMate app or visit: waikatoregion.govt.nz/maritime-services

Cellphone in a dry bag

Cellphones are rarely designed to be waterproof, so keep yours in a sealed waterproof bag that you can still use if you are in the water.

“Remember, not all locations have cellphone coverage, particularly remote lakes and rivers, so make sure to take another form of communication that will work.”

Distress beacons

EPIRBs and PLBs are the most effective way of letting people know that you need urgent help in any location, says Richard.

“You are required to register your beacon with Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand and ensure your details are up-to-date. It’s also important to regularly check its battery life.”


Always carry torches or flares. They are essential if you want rescuers to locate you, particularly at night or in poor visibility. “So please get your communication tools sorted – and enjoy safe boating this season!”


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