So the day has come. After weeks (if not months) of perusing the available new boats for sale, you have made a purchase and it's time for your maiden voyage. If you are in fact new to offshore boating, there is a curious area of caution that you might not have considered. While such an event could potentially take place in any of Australia's coastal waters, it's particularly pertinent off the coast of Queensland.
Some 30,000 whales will navigate these waters in 2017, and while this is great news for the mammals as a whole (after all, many of them are on their way to their breeding grounds), it does pose an increased risk for those in boats who happen to be in the vicinity. This is particularly true if you have not encountered such a situation before. So what can you do to minimise the possibility of damage to you, your passengers, and your boat (and not to mention those beautiful whales too)?
The Time of Year
The time of year can increase the likelihood of encountering a pod of whales. For example, humpback whales tend to migrate north along the east coast of Australia between June and August, before making their way south again between September and November.There is no carefully determined migration schedule, and environmental factors can play a role too. But still, there are some times of year when extra caution is needed to avoid an incident while on the water.
What to Do
If you happen to be on the water and spot a pod of whales, there are a number of things than can make a huge difference.
- If you're currently travelling, decrease your speed so that you don't risk a high velocity collision with a whale.
- If the pod seems to be directly underneath you, cut your engines entirely. You don't want to risk a whale being injured by your propellers.
- If you are fishing, immediately retract all fishing lines and nets.
- If your boat is anchored, pull the anchor up to avoid it becoming snagged on a whale passing underneath. It can be prudent to carry a utility knife of a suitable size and strength onboard, so that you can quickly cut your anchor rope in an emergency.
- Once it's safe to do so, make your way away from the whales. The minimum caution zone can vary from state to state, but it's often a legal requirement. For example, in Queensland a single boat must stay at least 100 metres from a whale.
Hopefully you will spend many years sailing the ocean waters, only admiring whales from afar, but if you should happen to have a truly close encounter, it's important to know what to do, particularly if you're new to offshore boating.