Every boat, no matter how big or small, must have a skipper. The skipper is legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all the people on board, and is also responsible for complying with all the relevant rules and regulations.
Even though no licence is required to operate a pleasure boat in New Zealand, ignorance of any maritime rules or regional bylaws is not accepted as an excuse. Failure to comply can lead to fines or prosecution.
You learned the rules of the road before you sat behind the wheel of a car, now you should do the same before taking the helm! There are some rules that apply to everyone on the water, no matter what sort of boat you are operating:
- Keep a proper lookout – watch where you are going at all times.
- Keep to a safe speed – this means slowing down in situations where you may find it difficult to see another boat, e.g. in waves, rain, or fog, or when there is glare on the water.
- Understand and operate within the speed limits – the maximum speed permitted for all boats in New Zealand is 5 knots (about 9 km/h) within 200 metres of shore or any boat with a dive flag, and within 50 metres of any other boat or swimmer.
- Know what to do when two boats meet – one boat has the right of way and the other boat is the give way boat:
- When you give way, always try to pass behind the other boat.
- Above all, make your intentions clear – make substantial alterations to your direction and be prepared to slow right down or stop if you are in doubt.
- If the give way boat fails to give way, you must make every effort to avoid a collision.
- Keep to starboard (“drive on the right”) in channels
- Any boat approaching another from behind is considered to be overtaking, and must keep clear of the boat it is passing.