Safety Talk

It only takes a couple of mild days in early September to get my heart pounding and remind me that those balmy summer days are just around the corner. Just weeks ago we were pitching our way through a cold winter's night hooked up to giant bluefin tuna. Rain squalls blew through and the wind had a very keen edge to it. In that situation adrenalin boots winter firmly in the backside but it didn’t stop us talking about how much more pleasant fishing is in the summer. Now those warm months are almost here and I am starting to think about preparation.

We see a lot of anglers fresh out of hibernation who turn up at the boat ramp only to find their battery is flat, something is badly corroded or a vital piece of equipment is missing.
Because my mobility is limited and I can’t just jump on the boat and check things out I have devised checklists for gear and cleaning up the mess. These lists ensure that my boat is as safe as possible and that everything is in its place and checked before each excursion.

I do simple things like checking that adequate lifejackets are on board and making sure that those jackets fit. I have a grab bag which contains safety gear such as first aid kit, epirb, binoculars, torch, snack bars, whistle, flares, etc. When a team get on board I run through how to use the marine radio, read the boat position off the GPS, start the engine, monitor engine performance, fit lifejackets, use flares and find the grab bag (which is designed to go with you if you need to dive over the side).

All of this only takes a few minutes but it serves to remind more experienced people and newcomers alike just how important safety is.
We do find forecasts unreliable sometimes and if you have to return home in a bit of a blow it is nice to know that you and your mates are as prepared as you can possibly be. So the message is quite simple. Don’t tempt fate. Make sure your vessel is well found and kitted out appropriately. Do your maintenance checks now and continue them on an ongoing basis.
For your benefit as well as that of your passengers go through a safety briefing at the start of each trip and make sure there are sufficient lifejackets on board for everyone. The other point about lifejackets is that they must fit. Try them at the start of your journey in calm comfortable conditions. Making adjustments in an emergency could cost lives.

If you haven’t done one, a Coastguard day skippers course is a great investment especially if you are new to this game. Coastguard members are likely to be the people who come looking for you in an emergency so joining the Coastguard is advisable. On a similar note make sure you know how to use your marine radio and which channels are appropriate to each area.
If you have a plan that includes a destination or favourite fishing spot make sure you advise people where you are going and the time you will return and stick to your plan.
As well as a slick safety procedure you also want an organised approach to your fishing. No point in bleating that something was left behind and of course swimming back is never an option.
Now you may think I’m a list freak but I just want to make sure that the brain cells I have left are not over taxed. A list is something that works for me and is a great reminder of what I need especially if we have had a lengthy spell of bad weather and I am not sure what has been left on the Haines Hunter and what has been taken off.

At the beginning of the season a fishing check list is very useful. You devise your own but there are some classics that need to be there.
Start at the top with what is clearly obvious. Do you have adequate bait and burley, ice (I also freeze down old plastic soft drink containers filled with water. Be sure not to overfill them or all you do is blow the tops off when they freeze), rods/reels, tackle box with appropriate hooks, sinkers and trace. Soft baits are all the rage and I have back up rods and reels ready to go pre rigged. I know I am in a privileged position but I get frustrated when I bust off because it takes so long to rig up again. Now with back up I am straight back in to the action.

My list of gear also includes other obvious things like a net and gaff, icky spike, small net to get live baits out of the tank, adequate sharp knives, gloves and a towel for handling fish (when wet). Rapala make a great range of accessories which I use. Things like scales, clippers and braid scissors are very useful.

There are many more things that I do but that’s a good start. All I’m really trying to say is that summer is just around the corner and we need to be prepared to maximise the quality of our boating and fishing trips. A little bit of time spent organising yourselves now will greatly enhance the days ahead. Have a fantastic, safe and productive summer.