Veteran's safety call

AS rescue teams searched the waters of St Georges Basin for three missing fishermen last week, one of Gerroa's keen fishermen has emphasised the importance of boating safety during the warmer months.

Bill Preston, who has fished in the area for 30 years, said it was crucial to look at the conditions, including the forecast for the return trip.

"At 6am when we go out, it might be beautiful, but you've got to think ahead about the swell, the tide, the wind," he said.

"Sometimes we won't go out because it won't be safe to come back in.

"If you're new, chat with the locals - if no one's out, that's got to tell you something."

The Gerroa Boat Fishermen's Club member has been registered with Marine Rescue for 20 years.

"As soon as you get on the water, you log on and tell them how many people you've got, where you're going and when you'll be returning," he said.

"If you're not back within one minute of when you've said, it's an automatic search and rescue."

Mr Preston said having the correct safety equipment was common sense - he advised boaters to make sure the equipment on the boat worked and to check the NSW Roads and Maritime Services website for requirements.

He keeps his torches, flares, flags and Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) in a box for easy packing.

RMS started Operation Ramp Check on Monday and will continue until Sunday, October 7.

Acting general manager of maritime operations Trevor Williams said boating safety officers would be checking skippers had the right safety equipment for the size and class of boat, including lifejackets.

"Some people do not go boating all winter, so it's crucial for safety reasons for proper checks to be conducted before heading out for the first time in the new season," he said.

For more information, visit www.maritime.nsw.gov.au.

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