Inexperienced Illawarra boaters have contributed to making 2023 a record-breaking year for search and rescue missions.
So far this year 153 search and rescues, 102 of which were emergencies, have been conducted by Port Kembla's Marine Rescue NSW.
This surpasses the unit's previous record of 150 set in 2021, and the busy summer season has now arrived.
The number of people returned safely to shore has changed dramatically - 311 so far this year, compared to 254 in 2021.
Port Kembla unit is the busiest of the seven Illawarra units which combined have carried out 427 search and rescues this year, 215 of which were emergencies.
On August 5, Port Kembla crews rescued two adults and two children from a fishing boat that was taking in water off Scarborough.
The volunteer rescue organisation is so worried about lives being put at risk that its commissioner Alex Barrell visited the Illawarra to plead with boaters to be safe.
He put part of the blame for the high number of search and rescues on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the influx of people buying boats as state and international border closures forced them to stay in their own region.
"We saw more people through that period get involved in boating," Mr Barrell said. "It's [the data] a reflection of the people who are out and about, obviously [they are] less experienced."
And, with more people on the water, he said there's a greater chance of things going wrong.
Males are overrepresented in the rescue statistics and Mr Barrell said too many people overestimate their abilities when it comes to boating.
"Don't take your day on the water for granted," he said. "Make sure that you have a really good understanding around the capability of the vessel that you're on or the boat that you're on."
Boaters should conduct simple checks of their vessel and equipment before you head out onto the water.
"A lot of the incidents that we respond to, in our mind, are preventable," he said.
"Things like running out of petrol, having flat batteries and not having the right safety equipment on board.
"Very basic things like having the right amount of life jackets for everyone on board [and] wearing them in in accordance with when you're supposed to wear them."
Boaters are urged to register their trip for free with Marine Rescue NSW so that your destination and expected return time can be known if things go wrong.
"What that means is if you don't return as scheduled, we'll make every attempt to contact you and if we can't contact you, then we'll obviously ramp up our efforts to locate you," Mr Barrell said.
Use the Marine Rescue NSW app to log your trip or radio your trip in by calling the Marine Rescue NSW base on VHF Channel 16.