A DROP-OFF in boaties using their marine radios has Fremantle Marine Rescue worried someone’s going to end up in a pickle, so they’ve launched a new education campaign.
FMR’s community engagement volunteer Sophie Preston told the Herald she believes there’s a number of factors behind the fall in people logging on to let the service know where they are heading and when they’ll be back.
“This is most likely linked to the misconception of having to have a licence to use VHF (you don’t but it is encouraged) and a lack of awareness or confidence to use a radio,” Ms Preston said.
She added that as a result of WA’s mining boom there were still many first-time boat owners who were probably unfamiliar with using a marine radio.
“A lot of boat users may not be aware that marine radio is constantly monitored and should be the first point of contact if you are in need of assistance.”
Recreational boat users have traditionally used the 27MHz signal because no licence is necessary, but this is being phased out shortly.
Radio operator Raylee Hertnon says from her experience a higher proportion of those sending out mayday calls haven’t logged on with FMR, and some days she’ll see 10 boats sailing out of the river from her perch in the signal tower on Cantonment Hill for every one that’s logged on.
She says boaties often confuse which island they’re sailing behind, and she fears there could be a tragedy one day if someone starts sinking and in a panic gives them wrong directions.
“If we know where they are heading, it’s a good start and we can get to them quicker,” Ms Hertnon said.
To encourage skippers to do the safe thing, FMR has had a bunch of signs that they’ll be installing at public boat ramps and yacht clubs over the next few weeks, letting them know the right frequencies and a phone number if they still can’t get their head around the radio.
Ms Preston said FMR are also an information service and can provide boaties with advice on what sort of radio would suit their craft and how to use it.
by STEVE GRANT