27 November 2018

Here we look at a solo fishing trip that nearly ended in disaster when conditions rapidly changed. Thankfully, the boater was wearing a lifejacket.

It was a cool and calm September morning when a 57-year-old man was fishing on Lake Glenmaggie in Gippsland. He was fishing on the Eastern side when the weather turned earlier than he anticipated.

He was winding in his lines when a large set of waves swamped his small tinny, knocking him into the water 250m from shore. The fisherman activated his inflatable lifejacket and clung to the overturned boat as it drifted towards land.

The water was extremely cold due to snow melt and the man became hypothermic. His phone was waterlogged so he had no way to raise the alarm, and his was the only vessel on the lake at the time.

The man finally came to shore and walked to a property to call for help. Police and ambulance attended the scene – he was taken to hospital for observation and released later the same day.

Police righted and secured the tinny, which was now missing its engine. Pounding waves had battered the vessel against the rocky shoreline, compromising the structural integrity. The boat would have to be salvaged when conditions became calm.

The boater later credited his lifejacket as a major factor in his survival, and he was fortunate to make it to shore before being overwhelmed by the cold.

Lessons Learnt

Maritime Safety Victoria urges boaters to consider changing weather conditions when thinking about heading out on the water. We also encourage boaters to invest in a distress beacon and wear a lifejacket at all times on the water.

Weather services
It is important to know the conditions for the duration of your trip. Five vital checks:

  1. Are warnings current for your boating area?
  2. Are there weather conditions affecting safe navigation and comfort?
  3. What are the wind trends?
  4. What are the wave conditions?
  5. When is the next high and low tide?

Call for help
Take several means of raising the alarm:

  • Distress beacon: We recommend boaters carry a GPS-enabled emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).
  • VHF: Marine Radio Victoria (MRV) covers the Victorian coastline.
  • Phone: Keep your mobile in a waterproof case.

Wear a lifejacket
Boating solo is considered heightened risk, meaning lifejacket wear is mandatory.

  • We recommend you wear a lifejacket even when not required by law.