Every year more recreational boats are traveling offshore to fish. With more reliable motors and the introduction of technology like GPS, boat owners feel more confident about heading into open waters and moving further afield.
Boating in offshore waters brings with it a new range of safety issues which the skipper must be aware of in order to be a responsible skipper.
The number one criterion is to have a boat that is suitable to handle offshore conditions and is capable of traveling extended distances in rough conditions.
Dinghies are not suitable offshore craft. While conditions in the morning might look
ideal, these can change rapidly and become rough and dangerous.
Offshore boats should have an enclosed foredeck to prevent water coming on board, or if the craft is an open boat with centre console configuration, a self-draining deck.
Flotation is a must and many new boats will have a level of buoyancy built in and specified on the Australian Builders Plate. However, the aim is to prevent water coming on board, and if it does, to be able to offload it as quickly as possible.
What equipment should a boat be carrying if operating in offshore conditions?
All the safety equipment required to be carried for smooth and partially smooth water operations is required for offshore conditions.
In addition a 406 MHz EPIRB must be carried if operating more than two nautical miles from the coast or outside partially smooth waters and PFD type 1 life jackets.
Bilge pump Consider installing a second high volume bilge pump which will offload water quickly.
Always have at least two heavy-duty buckets ready for use, as a bucket is an extremely efficient method of bailing water.
Consider carrying two batteries, one for starting and one for running accessories. This way you will always be able to start the motor.
Make sure they are marine batteries which can handle rough conditions, have a high-cranking power and are deep-cycle which means they can charge faster.
A normal car battery is not a suitable battery for a boat.
Remember, large-HP modern outboard motors cannot be pull started.
Battery power is often sapped by the multiple electronics boats now carry such as GPS, sounders or bait tank aerators.
A marine radio is not compulsory equipment but it is strongly recommended that all boats operating in partially smooth and offshore waters carry one, preferably a VHF radio.
Use the marine radio to:
- advise rescue groups of your location and estimated arrival time at the ramp
- receive updated weather reports
- maintain a listening watch for vessels in need of assistance – do not rely on a mobile phone.
Safety tips when boating offshore
- Keep a weather watch — receive regular weather updates for changes.
- Keep a fuel watch — ensure the boat is fully fuelled before leaving the ramp or marina and be aware that you may travel further than planned. If rough weather is experienced for the return trip, more fuel will be used than on the outward trip. Always ensure you have a reserve supply.
Accessing offshore waters
In many locations in south east Queensland, a coastal bar will need to be crossed to access fishing grounds.
Bar crossings are not for the inexperienced so learn from others before you attempt a bar crossing or use other access points.