Monday, April 9, 2007

Keep a lookout

One of my favourite radio shows as a kid was the BBC comedy, "I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again”. One of the best lines from one episode is from a chap who’s up the lookout.
Narrator: “Suddenly, there was a cry from the lookout.”
Lookout: “Look out!”
Capt'n: "What is it?
Lookout: "An iceberg."
Sound effects: major crunching of ice on wooden hull.
Lookout: “Don't worry. It's gone now.”

An acccident on NZ’s Waitemata Harbour last year left a salutary lesson to kayakers, and boaters. An 8m powerboat, travelling at 16 knots was about 60m away from Stuart Chrisp's yellow kayak when he waved his bright yellow paddle and shouted a warning.

Obviously, shouting at a boat with twin props and doing 16 knots means you’re not going to be heard. And blowing the obligatory whistle attached to your PFD is a waste of time in most circumstances. There’s really not a lot a kayaker can do when caught in such a predicament. Thus the onus is on the bigger and faster boats to do the right thing – keep a lookout and adjust their speed.

Skipper of the powerboat was a rear commodore of the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), who should have known better. Last week he pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court to failing to keep a proper lookout, and failing to consider the obligations of the vessel he was in charge of. Interestingly, he’s believed to be the first person in NZ to be prosecuted for colliding with a kayaker. I don’t know if that’s the case elsewhere in the world.

On the skipper’s side, as soon as he heard the "thump" of the kayak under the boat, he fished Chrisp out of the water. But that, quite rightly, wasn’t good enough for the Court.

Overall, it’s a good warning for boaties with fast and powerful boats; collision regulations clearly state that you must keep a proper and effective lookout and adjust your speed accordingly. Please. But it also means that we kayakers have got to be always keeping a wary eye out in areas with heavier boat traffic.

And Chrisp? Apart from the fact that he seriously thought he wasn’t going to see his wife and three kids ever again, he was whisked off to hospital with severe bruising and a locked back and, as any good Kiwi would, said he was in “bloody agony”.


Michael said...

Ouch! Good post, Kristen. Too many of us have almost been there. I hate to think of the consequences, but at least this case didn't result in someone's death.

Capt'n "O" Dark 30 said...

I hear ya... I was almost taken out by a handful of kids in a pontoon boat on the Bark river last year. It's a two beer story and best told by a raging campfire.