Tragic accidents in small open boats by lone skippers

Two serious boating accidents over two days in Port Stephens have prompted an urgent reminder by Maritime Safety Authorities of the importance of wearing lifejackets. 

NSW Maritime Acting Manager Boating Safety and Regional Operations Craig Whitmore reported that an 84-year-old man was pulled from the water unconscious after he had set out in his tender (small open boat) to go to his cruiser which was moored at Salamander Bay, Port Stephens. 

He is now in a stable condition after having been airlifted to John Hunter Hospital. 

The body of a 71-year-old man was found washed ashore from an upturned yacht tender which was attached to a moored trimaran inTanilba Bay, Port Stephens.

Neither man was wearing a lifejacket when found. 

“The two incidents are a tragic reminder of the importance of taking some essential safety measures, especially when boating alone.” 

Mr Whitmore said it was crucial that anyone planning to go boating alone in a vessel less than 4.8m long should wear a lifejacket. 

NSW lifejacket legislation changed in 2010. Now it is compulsory to wear lifejackets more often when boating, including when boating alone in small craft,” he said. 

“While the exact circumstances of these incidents are yet to be determined, it is important to recognise that a lifejacket can help a person remain afloat, allowing them time to make it to safety or to be rescued,” Mr Whitmore said. 

“Wearing a lifejacket can make a difference.” 

Mr Whitmore said lifejackets were now compulsory to wear at times that included the following:

  • Boating alone in a vessel of less than 4.8m
  • Boating offshore in a vessel of less than 4.8m
  • Boating at night in a vessel of less than 4.8m
  • Crossing coastal bars.

More details about New South Wales lifejacket regulations are available at:


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