Making the right decisions: The value of knowing what you’re doing.

Apr 2, 2021

It’s been said that good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. Or as Oscar Wilde said

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”.

If you go boating frequently you will realise that things don’t always go to plan – we will all make a mistake or two (or more) on our path to boating proficiency.


The good news is that you don’t have to experience every boating calamity to learn from the collective experience of others. There is a wealth of knowledge available through ‘informal’ channels; yacht and boating clubs, friends and youtube. More formal educational pathways are also available for both the recreational and professional mariner. Longstanding and highly regarded courses such as Day Skipper and Boatmaster provide excellent opportunities to up skill or to refresh areas that have become a bit ‘rusty’

While new boaties seem quite open to learning new skills it is often the ‘old salts’ who could benefit most from a refresh – sometimes we don’t realise what we don’t know. 

One of the interesting things revealed by research into recreational boating is the age profile of boaties. In the Recreational Boating Survey it showed that; for sailboats 64% were over 55 years of age; powerboats (6m or less) 41% were over 55, and when it comes to dinghies 46% were over 55. It is estimated that between 55- 60% were male. 

If you then look at the preventable drowning stats you’ll see that it’s males over the age of 65 who are overly represented. Water Safety New Zealand research indicates that preventable drowning deaths for the over 65s doubled between 2016 and 2017. 

One of reasons for this might be that as we get more familiar with our environment we fail to recognise the risks – in short we become complacent. It’s the “if it hasn’t happened to me yet, it will never happen to me” mind set. I’m sure we all know someone with this attitude. 

The irony is that as we get older we may be more likely to have the income and time to go boating – and there’s no reason you shouldn’t - but make sure you’re well prepared. Boats have got bigger, often faster, and more complicated. Multi-function displays and lots of bells and whistles are great, but it’s important to understand the underlying principles (e.g., chart symbols, tidal influences) and the shortcomings of the equipment that we are using (e.g., terrain shielding, HDOP). There is also a wide range of more recent technology that will aid safety and add to your enjoyment on the water (e.g., AIS, DSC). 

As the skipper of any vessel (commercial or recreational) you have a legal responsibility to ensure that the vessel and crew are kept safe – a fundamental requirement is to know what you are doing. If you’re not sure, need a refresher, or would like to take up a new challenge think about formalising your existing boating knowledge by taking a course. Learning from others poor decisions might just save you a whole lot of anguish – there’s no point making your own costly mistakes when you can learn from others.

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New Member Day Skipper Course $100 discount:
To use your National Coastguard NZ new member discount for $100 off a Day Skipper course, please in put your membership number in the Discount Code field below (e.g. 123456). Do not use CGM in front of the number.  This discount code may not be used in conjunction with any other offer, and can only be redeemed once. 

10% Membership discount:
To use your National Coastguard NZ 10% membership discount on other selected Home Study courses, input "CGM" and your Coastguard membership number (e.g. CGM78091) into the  "Discount Code" field below. This discount code may not be used in conjunction with any other offer. The courses included in this discount offer are: Day Skipper (Not to be used in conjunction with $100 discount), Boatmaster, Maritime VHF Radio Operator Certificate, Inboard Engine Maintenance, Outboard Engine Maintenance and GPS Operator.

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