NOAA

The Three Most Stupid Things You Can Do on the Water

 

The three-man crew, er, I mean two man and one woman crew, of the Silent Lady out of St. Thomas, USVI. First thing they made sure of was where our life jackets were. The second thing was where the rum was. Arrggh!

Boating season is in full swing here in South Carolina, not that you won’t find impassioned boaters active here and elsewhere in the United States year-round. But somehow the warm weather seems to attract more than the water’s share of wackos who think they are impervious to their really bad choices. Once we get into the dead heat of summer, it’s hard not to pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV and learn about the antics of some moron that brought about someone’s serious injury or death.

Below are three really bad things to do with your boat, though I’m sure seasoned boaters and the United States Coast Guard can easily add to this list. Before reading any further, maybe you ought to take a couple of Dramamine tablets and a life jacket. It won’t keep you from getting seasick, but when you sail with some of the characters I’m about to introduce, you might be tempted to jump overboard.

First, there are the boaters that don’t carry life jackets or bother to use them. I know the Coast Guard would agree with me 100% on this. While laws generally vary from state to state, generally, children, operators of personal water craft, and water skiers are supposed to wear one. They should also fit snugly which is why adult life jackets are deathtraps for children.

A lot of operators of boats always assume a boating accident isn’t going to happen to them. Assumption is the mother of all Screw-ups. Actually, I wanted to use a more colorful phrase because I can’t make this point too strongly, but I think wordpress would banish me even if it saved a life. A lot more than collisions can cause a person to drown. Losing balance and falling overboard while fishing, for instance. Or rough seas that end up swamping your boat.

A lot of people complain wearing a lifejacket is too restrictive. Well, if you think wearing one of those things is uncomfortable, imagine how comfortable it is to be gasping for air underwater while your lungs fill with water. If you want a thorough list of Do’s and Don’ts for lifejacket usage visit the United States Coast Guard at http://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/life-jacket-wear-wearing-your-life-jacket.php. 

Another common yet equally stupid thing for boaters to do is not check the weather forecast. They got their sandwiches packed; enough beer to float their vessel, enough ice to sink the Titanic, and a wide variety of fishing tackle that would make Ernest Hemingway look like a namby-pamby. Yet somehow checking the forecast doesn’t fit into their idea of a fun day.

What these knuckleheads don’t realize is that Mother Nature changes her moods out on the sea as frequently as the weather in Miami in the middle of a hot August afternoon. As my good friend, Jimmy, from Miami says: “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” When you’re a few miles offshore, and a weather maker blows up from nowhere, it’s a little too late to run for shelter. There’s really no excuse for not checking  the forecast when you have an expert site like https://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm to go to.

You can probably guess at the next thing stupid boaters do. That’s why I’m lumping them with drunken pirates. A third of boating accidents are alcohol-related. Blackbeard would probably still be alive today, raiding ships off North Carolina if he had a clear head the day Lieutenant Maynard sailed into the shallow inlets of Beaufort, NC looking for him. Instead, with a false sense of bravado, fueled by his nightlong rum-swilling, he pursued Maynard’s ship after it was grounded. (His own ship was freed only minutes before by the rising tide.) Had he been sober, Blackbeard might have weighed anchor and escaped.  Instead, he led his drunken men aboard Maynard’s ship, where the lieutenant surprised him with well-armed men concealed below deck.

When you’re out on the water, anything can happen, from a malfunctioning engine to a man overboard, to an encounter with an intoxicated boater mindlessly bearing down on you. It’s true you probably won’t meet any pirates out there, but the point is you have to be ready to deal with any crisis. Being three sheets to the wind because of too much rum is hazardous for both you, your guests, and your boat.

While the irresponsible boater may think it’s no big deal to get caught while under the influence, he might consider penalties could include suspension of driving and boating licenses, fines, and possible jail time. Not a lot of fun if you sober up in jail and realize you got Bubba for a cellmate and he’s been lonely for a long, long time. Visit https://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/boating-under-the-influence.php  where the Coast Guard gives you a whole lot more to think about before taking that first shot of rum.

Boating Safety Week is held this year from May 18 to May 24, in the effort to make boaters a lot more conscientious about their choices out on the water. I think boat safety is so important, it needs more than just seven days. I think it needs to be extended throughout the summer and beyond. Visit me again here and find out the next three stupid things even pirates wouldn’t do with their boat.

Until then, smooth sailing on the high seas, and if you get on board someone else’s ship, be sure you get your fair share of rum, but first make sure to ask for your life jacket.

 

Bill Hegerich

The Uncommon Mariner

PS. Want more fun out on the water? Want to join a pirate crew that’s saavy and safe? Check out https://www.coolboatsusvi.com/silent-lady.html

 

To leave a comment, visit me at https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/the-three-most-stupid-things-you-can-do-on-the-water/   Maybe you can guess what the next three things are that stupid boaters do.

 

Ready or Not Here They Come

Whether at sea or on land, when a devastating hurricane comes, there is no such thing as being too cautious.

Let me introduce you to Arlene, Ophelia, Maria, and Cindy. While quite feminine-sounding, these ladies could make your life a living hell in the months to come. And don’t be lulled into security by the gentlemen they hang out with: Don, Philippe, Jose, and Bret. These guys have the potential to be deadlier than the hitmen of a mafia’s don.

All of these characters appear on the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) list of hurricanes for 2017. Their partners in crime include Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Katia, Lee, Nate, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, and Whitney. Let’s hope you never hear from any of these potential killers after this blog.

Hurricane predictions, though scientific, can be an inexact science. Consider that NOAA is predicting a 45% chance for above-normal hurricanes this season. But they hedge their bets by saying there’s a 35% chance of a normal hurricane season.

This means they are predicting 11 to 17 named storms with five to nine of them developing into hurricanes. Of those, they expect two to four to become major hurricanes capable of widespread damage.

On the other hand, meteorologists at AccuWeather are calling for a lighter than normal season with only ten named storms. Five they expect to develop into hurricanes, with three of those possessing the potential to become a category three or greater.

In case you were wondering, the average hurricane season, which, incidentally, lasts until Dec. 1, has 12 named storms with six developing into hurricanes. Out of those, three are likely to become a cat three or higher. Last year we had seven hurricanes, four of which were major. Remember Matthew? My wife and I fled to the mountains of North Carolina where my wife’s cousin, John Gilroy, and his lovely wife, Peggy, gave us haven for five days.

Ironically, my daughter and her family along with my sister-in-law eventually fled their homes and sought refuge in the house my wife and I abandoned when they lost power. It’s funny how life can be so strange.

Though we’re only a week into hurricane season, it’s NEVER too early to prepare for one. If you wait until Jim Cantore appears on your TV in his L.L. Bean rain slicker, it’s already too late for you.

Because we all need reminders, I’m reprinting part of an article I did last June on preparing for a hurricane. Hopefully, it will improve your chances of survival should one of those cat three or four hurricanes strike your hometown…

Most people think the real damage from hurricanes is caused by wind. The truth is winds can be extremely deadly, but the tidal surge accounts for the vast number of deaths. Audrey hit east Texas in 1957, pushing a massive tidal surge forward while unsuspecting residents slept in their beds. Over 500 people perished. The storm surge of Camile on Aug. 18, 1969 left over 250 dead from Louisiana to Virginia.

So what should you do to prevent you or your family from becoming a statistic? Three things: One, listen to officials and follow their directives. When they tell you to prepare to evacuate, be ready to go. Two, Be prepared. This means getting your property storm-ready and your family ready to move if necessary. Three, have a plan. Know what you need to do, what you need to bring with you, and who you will need to contact.

Several things are important if you want to minimize damage to your property or danger to yourself. Cut down dead trees and branches near your home now. They’ll look pretty darn ugly sticking through your roof when you could have done something about it earlier.

Have supplies on hand in case you are allowed to ride the storm out at home. These include: Batteries, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, a first aid kit, canned food, a manual can opener, water (at least a gallon per-day per-person), prescription drugs, and phone numbers of relatives.

Have a plan for evacuation. If you can leave earlier, do it. If you wait till the last minute, know beforehand where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. That plan should include having a full tank of gas way ahead of time.

Take inventory of everything in your home. You can document this for your insurance company by taking pictures. Be sure to open dresser drawers as well as kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Have a hurricane bag ready to snatch and run 365 days of the year because you never know when an emergency will strike. It should include: birth and wedding certificates, financial papers, wills, insurance policies which cover life, health, home, auto, and boat. It won’t hurt to bring income tax filings for the last year or two.

If you have a landline, keep a phone on hand that you can plug directly into the wall.  If you lose cell phone service and electricity goes out, you’ll have contact with the outside world.

Have a point of contact outside the hurricane area. If family or friends get separated during an evacuation, the person outside your area can relay vital information.

If you have pets, make provisions for them long before the storm appears on the weather channel’s maps. Bringing them to a shelter is not an option nor is abandoning them at home.

If you are able to seek refuge in a shelter, know where it is ahead of time. Don’t guess. Searching for a shelter you’ve never been to while a hurricane is bearing down on you is not the brightest thing you could do.

Remember no drugs, alcohol, or guns in a shelter. Do bring a few essentials like canned food, water, a blanket, reading materials, board games, cards, and a sense of humor. You may be anxious under the circumstances, but so is everyone else so be polite and courteous.

Forget the hurricane parties. For many people, attending one was the last thing they did. Even if you survive, the devastation a storm leaves behind can make your days miserable. After a hurricane you’re likely to have no water, electricity or toilet facilities for days. How much fun is that?

Hopefully, no major hurricanes will make landfall this year. Just don’t bet on it.  Stay safe out there no matter what the weather and enjoy the beautiful summer months ahead.  Smooth sailing out there on the high seas of life.

                                               Bill Hegerich

                                               The Uncommon Mariner

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