by Dom Wiseman

It feels like we have had a lot of rain here in New South Wales recently and it got me thinking about boating in times of flood waters, and what happens when those flood waters move to the coast. Aside from the grime that can dirty up your hull, you could also come away with major structural issues.

The water have can cause untold damage to homes and infrastructure such as bridges and roads, but it also presents a problem to boaties all over the country. During floods, enormous piles of debris can be washed out into larger rivers and tributaries and even out to sea. I’ve even heard of shipping containers being spotted offshore, thankfully, by game boats operating miles offshore. I doubt they come down the river in a flood though. More likely a careless container ship.

These guys often also have to contend with whales and sensibly they always keep a lookout for potential harm, but the weekend warrior who isn’t aware of the potential dangers can be caught unaware. Whales offshore can present a problem for small boats too as one unsuspecting crew on the north coast discovered a few years ago when their small runabout slammed into one on its way down the coast. Whale season has just finished on the East coast, but like clockwork, they will be back next year. Their boat stopped dead and the passengers were left requiring numerous stitches after an unscheduled date with the windscreen that is supposed to protect them from spray. The entire front end of the aluminium hull was crushed in but they made it safely back to shore. A lucky end to a potentially dangerous day of boating.

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Closer to home, while on a boat testing day on the Hawkesbury River in NSW, we came across a huge pile of debris that had been washed downstream recently. It appeared to be slowly making its way to the open ocean. It sat almost in the middle of the river and a careful scan of the area yielded several more piles. Amongst the flotsam were many small pieces of timber and branches, a tyre, a lonely deck chair, tonnes of plastic bottles (it’s shameful that this still happens to be the most prevalent rubbish visible on the water and seemingly the most discarded item of modern society), many larger branches and worryingly several large trees underpinning the tangled mess.

Undoubtedly, the large trees present the biggest problem for boating and there is no way an unsuspecting captain and his guests would walk away from such a tangle with merely a few scratches. The trees were enormous and some at least three feet in diameter with the capability to stop a large vessel just like the aforementioned whale.

That is why, after times of flood, it is important to be aware of the potential damage these piles of flotsam can create and boat owners must be cautious and drive accordingly. Just as you would be wary offshore in whale migration season, we must switch on and realise that when flood waters have long receded, dangers still exist on the water.