Wed, Dec 29, 2021 7:55 AM

Harbourmaster urges safety this summer

Nelson Harbourmaster Stuart Whitehouse shares tips for staying safe on the water. Photo: Sara Hollyman.


Warm water, calm mornings, afternoon sea breezes and long evenings.

We are so lucky to have this great marine playground on our doorstep and it’s great to see people out enjoying it already this summer.

Nelson also has a few challenges for watercraft.

Strong currents due to some of the highest tidal ranges in NZ. All that water moves through a couple of narrow gaps- the Cut and Rocks Road/ Haulashore Island.

With the wind blowing in the opposite direction, these areas can get treacherous, especially for small craft. One to watch is the sea breeze (Northerly wind) working against an outgoing tide.

During summer months the port and fishing traffic continues.

With lots of recreational traffic there is huge risk here which in part is managed by the Nelson Navigational Safety Bylaw which describes exclusion zones when shipping is present.

When a ship is entering or departing, this closes off the dredged channel area (from red marker #1 to #9).

Ships often have tugs alongside who also need the ability to manoeuvre quickly. They displace a lot of water which is hazardous to other vessels.

Check the shipping schedule and plan to avoid these times, most movements occur in the 2 hours up to high water.

Monitor Channel 12 on VHF radio as shipping movements are announced on Nelson Harbour Radio.

If in doubt, call up to check if anything is expected (compulsory for vessels over 20m or towing whilst transiting the cut)

Have a plan, check the weather, tides and follow the 5 golden rules:

1. Life Jackets

Take them – Wear them. Boats, especially ones under 6m in length, can sink very quickly. Wearing a life jacket increases your survival time in the water. It’s compulsory in Nelson to wear them on a vessel under 6m.

2. Skipper Responsibility

The skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone on board and for the safe operation of the boat. Stay within the limits of your vessel and your experience.

3. Communications

Take two separate waterproof ways of communicating so we can help you if you get into difficulties.

4. Marine Weather

New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Check the local marine weather forecast before you go and expect both weather and sea state changes.

5. Avoid Alcohol

Safe boating and alcohol do not mix. Things can change quickly on the water. You need to stay alert and aware.