Boating Safety - A Wake Up Call!
By: Dennis Bryant "The Fishing-Professor"
Just about everyone who has owned
a high-performance boat for more than a single season, has had
an INCIDENT on the water. An incident is a near miss instead of
an accident. It's a scrape in the side of the hull, rather than
an explosion of fiberglass parts. It's a bruise on the knees instead
of a trip to the hospital. It's almost losing control of your
boat in a high-speed turn, rather than running the boat aground.
It's an OOPS! Instead of a deadly boating accident. It's one of
those things that you laugh about after it's over. Am I right?
Have you had one yet? Two? More?
Please, forgive the ramblings of
an "old man"; but, an event happened a few days ago that made
me acutely aware of the fallibility of us all.
I just lost a longtime friend, and
fishing buddy; in a tragic, senseless, and totally preventable,
boating accident. His life was taken by a person with five years
of high-performance boating experience, who had just, a week before
the accident took place, finally completed a boating safety course.
My friend was a freshwater charter-captain, with more than a quarter
of a century of experience behind the helm of a Lake Erie charter
boat. He was a knowledgeable, safe, and sober skipper. He was
an acknowledged expert in his field. He'd also spent the last
eight years of his life as a volunteer navigation instructor,
at the same Coast Guard 'boater's safety courses' that the driver
of the other boat had just completed. The captain had never had
a boating accident in all his years on the water.
The large twin-engine offshore-style boat, was
running parallel to, and overtook the charter boat my friend was
operating. The driver of the faster boat was hit in the eye by
an insect, while his boat was running at well over 50 MPH. He
wasn't wearing protective eyeglasses at the time. His 40' boat
veered, turned into, and ran completely over, the starboard side
of the slower charter boat before the driver even realized what
had happened. Two people died, and four more were seriously injured,
because of one man's simple loss of common sense judgment. My
friend left behind his wife of thirty-five years, four children,
and seven grandchildren.
Now I'm about the last person in the world who
can claim to be an expert on boating safety. Therefore, I'm not
even going to try to make that claim. I'm also not one to point
fingers. Back to that old "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" thing. Hindsight
is always 20/20! When you think about it though, there is something
seriously wrong out there when it comes to boating safety! Too
many people, myself included I'm afraid, are taking everyday boating
safety far too much for granted. Not the majority of all the boaters,
to be sure; but still, far too many fail to even take the time
to seriously think about what they're doing on the water. The
mind strays to thoughts about exactly where to go as you head
out, and what to do, and what you'll use when you get there. Rather
than the task immediately in front of you ~ keeping aware of where
you are, what and who's around you, and just plain getting there
safely! Defensive driving courses are available for all sorts
of land-based vehicles. There are still no standardized mandates
for watercraft. In 1970, you were required to present a "Safe-Boating
Course" certificate, in order to register for a bass tournament
on a national circuit. The certificate was not allowed to be more
than 5-years old. I seriously wonder what percentage of invitational
or club tournament anglers have one with their name on it today.
During the last forty-five years
or so, I've spent an enormous amount of time on the water. I've
spent some time in the 'white-knuckle seat', and a lot of time at
the helm of a bass boat. I've also spent a decent amount of time
as well, in both racing boats and freshwater charter boats. Because
of that, I think I know what I'm talking about when it comes to
the day-to-day operation of boats. I've been involved in, and witnessed
more than my fair share, of near-miss incidents on the water over
the years. I know what they are, and how they can happen in the
blink of an eye. No one is immune to them. None of us are that lucky!
I'm sure you realize fully, that at 50mph, even
a bass boat is dangerous. At over 60mph, it becomes extremely
hazardous. At over 70mph, it becomes a projectile that actually
needs more to be aimed, than be steered. It doesn't have the stab-boards
that a racing boat, or even a much slower ski boat does, to help
in the turns.
Do you think that any racing boat driver
would wear as little protective equipment as most of us do, at over
70 mph? Stop and think! They wear anchored safety harnesses; flak
jackets; certified full-face helmets; goggles; padded gloves; and
fully padded leather survival suits; plus their four-point class-1
life jackets. What do most of us wear when we take off for a day
on the water? I don't know about you; but I haven't worn protective
racing-gear for fifteen years! Probably never will again! However,
I do still wear the helmet and goggles on rare occasions. Not because
of the 100mph speeds anymore, but because sometimes I just feel
the need to wear them. Age, and a strong desire to remain alive
a bit longer, may have a lot to do with that.
Please, if you've stayed with me to
this point, remember these few last items:
Operate your boat as if your
life depends on it! Because it does!
Drive your boat and your tow
vehicle safely! Someone is waiting for you to come home at the
end of the day!
Learn, and practice the rules
of the road for safe boating.
Take a safe boating course. Listen
to what the instructors have to say. Learn from it, and pass
the information on to your friends. The information just may
someday save your life, or the life of someone you love or care
for very much!
Dennis Bryant ( The Fishin' Professor )
- Contact Dennis with your questions
or comments at TheFishingProfessor@bassonhook.com
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