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.
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.