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Carry a beacon when you go boating


In February, Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV) is sharing the message that boaters and paddlers need to carry a distress beacon, so they can raise the alarm if they unexpectedly enter the water.


Victorian paddler James says he was knocked out of his kayak by a regulation wave that caught him by surprise.


He was amazed at how quickly he went from someone with all safety measures in place to “an idiot swimming beside a boat” in rough seas.


“Once in the water, it was hard to think straight and, as I got colder, I found that my fingers didn’t work so well. I realised that if I was going to set off my beacon, it had better be soon.


“I started to think about my partner and how worried she’d be, as I was well overdue by that time. Looking back, the right thing to do would have been to set off the beacon as early as possible.”


James set off his beacon, and a rescue helicopter was dispatched.


“Based on my experience, my advice to you is always carry a distress beacon,” James said.


‘Carry a distress beacon’ is a key message in MSV’s new boating safety campaign ‘Prepare to survive: Know the five’.


Beacons must be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). AMSA has partnered with MSV to share the ‘carry a distress beacon’ message.


Watch James tell his story and get more advice from MSV and AMSA at


Prepare to survive


Ending up in Victorian waters, which remain cool year-round, is one of the greatest risks to the safety of boaters and paddlers.


MSV research insights indicate that many boaters and paddlers underestimate the risks and overestimate their skills. In short they think “I’m experienced. It won’t happen to me”.


It happens to the best of us. And often for reasons out of our control.


Preparing to survive is part of mastering your control of your vessel, and your knowledge of the environment.


Prepare to survive: Know the five

  1. Know the weather
  2. Practise getting back on
  3. Carry a distress beacon
  4. Lock in a buddy plan
  5. Wear a lifejacket.

Find out more about the campaign at