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Pelican Waters QLD - Boating and Fishing
How to Avoid Marine Accidents

Over 600 marine incidents are reported annually, however many incidents that occur are not reported. Recent data from Queensland Health revealed a considerable gap between the number of marine-related hospitalisations and the number
of accidents reported.

Most marine accidents are avoidable and are often caused through inattention, lack of knowledge and experience, or complacency. All of these elements are the responsibility of the skipper.

Collisions are the most common form of marine incident, often caused by colliding with a fixed object such as a jetty or pontoon while berthing or leaving a marina.

However, far too many collisions are with other boats which can result in disastrous

What causes collisions?

Mostly in attention, or skippers failing to show their intentions to other operators.

Skippers often become complacent when on the water because of the appearance of wide open spaces around them.

Other boats can seem a long distance away with no threat of coming close or risking collision.

Skippers need to realise and be aware of the following:

  • Many waterways have narrow channels which confine traffic to a corridor like a roadway.
  • Many skippers do not signal their intentions or direction of travel clearly.
  • Some skippers think they can anchor or drift along in a busy waterway without any danger to themselves or others.
  • Too many skippers do not fully understand the collision rules which apply to giving way, overtaking and keeping clear of vessels with limited manoeuvrability.

Rule One

When driving a boat, keep a good lookout and be ready for the unexpected. 
Do not become complacent because you are on the water.

Rule Two

Always show your intentions to an oncoming boat or a boat crossing your bow. If a boat is approaching head-on in a narrow channel, alter your course to starboard. If a risk of collision is apparent, slow down and let the other boat pass.
Never assume the other boat will automatically ‘give way’.

Rule Three
Do not anchor in busy waterways or narrow channels.

Rule Four

Learn the collision rules and learn how to apply them.

Other common marine incidents are groundings and capsizes.


Groundings can be avoided easily by following simple steps.

Know your waterway and if unsure slow down. For south east Queensland, purchase a Beacon to Beacon Directory which shows the marked channels and what beacons to look for.

Pay attention – many groundings occur because the skipper misreads a beacon through inattention.

Watch the weather and don’t anchor where a change of weather can blow you onto a foreshore.


Boats capsize or swamp mostly because of poor stability or rough conditions.

Poor stability is caused by excess weight on board, whether it is people or cargo, and where the weight is positioned.

It is essential to position weight as low as possible and ensure the bow or stern is not lower than the other.

If the boat appears to be slow to respond to a roll or pitch then the boat is overloaded.

In rough conditions the boat relies on the bow to provide lift into the prevailing sea condition whether it is wind chop or ocean swell.

When a boat breaks down or is drifting, the wind will turn the bow away from the wave direction and the stern will face into the waves. This is a dangerous situation as the stern or transom usually has the lowest freeboard and is subject to taking water.

If you break down or are adrift in rough conditions, anchor immediately if practical or deploy a drogue (a bucket can act as a drogue) to keep the bow into the sea.

Never anchor your boat by the stern.

Even the passing wake of a boat can come over the transom and cause a swamping.



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