Accidents... Why they Happen!
Many accident experts think most accidents result from a "sequence" or "chain of events" of poor decision making and not any one single thing. The underlying rational is that if you break that chain by removing any one of these events, the accident is not likely to occur.
It goes without saying, that if you go out in a dense fog and cruise down the coast at 35 knots after you have been up drinking all night you’re an accident waiting to happen! According to the chain of events theory; removing any one of these elements from the sequence and you are likely to avoid the ICU at your local hospital.
Seems to me this makes a strong case for the exercising of "Common Sense".
Common Factors in Most Boating Accidents
While there are many factors that contribute to boating accidents, the USCG statistics for 2013 show the majority of these accidents share the same root issues: alcohol use, excessive speed, improper lookout, machinery failure, operator inattention, and operator inexperience. These top (6) accident factors accounted for more than 50% of all boating accidents during this same period.
Further, where known, almost 79% of all boating fatalities occurred where the boat operator had no boating educational training or instruction.
So What Can I Do to Prevent a Boating Accident?
Ok, so let’s get this out of the way now. "Get the education and training that you need in order to make the correct decisions afloat.
Alright, been there done that! What else is there?
Come on now, you had to know this was coming....
Situational awareness is "the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future".
Huh? What he say?
In basic terms, it means being aware of everything that is going on around you and how it may affect the outcome of whatever it is you are doing or intend to do in the short term and including that information into your own planning and decision making process.
Now see... Didn’t that just clear up all of your boating safety questions?
No? Then how about an example:
It is a beautiful June Saturday, the weather is clear and the seas are flat. You are planning your entrance into Rudee Inlet in your new 48’ sport fisherman. You notice that the inlet channel is rather narrow and is crowded with small open boats drift fishing, there is additional inbound and outbound boat traffic, a few jet skis thrown into the mix, and groups of people on the bulkheads fishing.
Ignoring for the moment the Marine Police and the Coast Guard, what can you reasonable predict about the outcome of your entering the inlet if you decide to do so at 28 knots?
If you think about it, you will realize that you have probably been practicing situational awareness in one form or another for most of your life.
Operate, Navigate, and Communicate
These three simple statements should guide you when out on the water.
Operate - Your number one job is to operate your boat and nothing should distract you from that. I understand how difficult it can be at times. You are out for a great day of fishing with your wife or girlfriend, or if you are truly favored by the gods (TIC), — both. Your wife is harping on you for a new Chrysler Town & Country to get the kids to soccer practice and the girlfriend won’t leave you alone about the Versace dress that she wants¹. A record setting Bluefin has just hit your trolling rig and your thoughts go to selling this fish to some Sushi joint for $15,000.00, which should just about cover the cost of the dress. Are you still thinking about your boat?... Remember, stay focused. You still are responsible for the safety of the boat and everyone on board.
Navigate — At all times know where you are and where you are going. Preferably something a little more accurate than just knowing the name of the body of water you are on or proudly telling your guests; "That’s America over there". At least sharpen your skills to the point that you can proclaim with some certainty "That’s California, (I think)".
Communicate — Whenever you are in doubt, communicate! Worried that you will sound stupid asking someone what the clearance of that bridge is up ahead? Think about how stupid you will look when the mast of your boat is in the cockpit with you. Not sure what the intentions of that tug and tow heading directly at you are? ASK!
And finally for those of you who remember Hill Street Blues — "Be Safe Out There!"
¹ With apologies to the ladies, it was only in good fun!