Boater education: a smart investment

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My inbox after the holiday weekend was filled with enough incidents, accidents and cautionary tales to keep a boating safety class busy all winter.

“Coast Guard saves 4 from sinking boat off South Padre Island.”

“Fisherman’s head was lodged between boat, pier.”

“6 men from capsized vessel rescued by good Samaritan.”

The Coast Guard, marine police and John Q Boaters hauled waterlogged mariners out of the water from Maine to Alaska.

Stuff happens to even the most experienced powerboaters and sailors. But educated boaters are not only safer and more confident; they also will remain in boating longer than someone who never quite figures it out. Knowing the ropes is one of the keys to longevity in boating. And it’s the folks who develop a real level of competency and comfort on the water who are best suited to pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm and enjoyment of the sport to subsequent generations.

Navigation, boat handling, developing a weather eye, understanding the Rules of the Road, situational awareness, preventive maintenance — and, yes, plenty of laughs and relaxation that come from doing it the right way aboard a reliable, well-maintained boat. That’s a formula for fun.

Part of being a responsible boat operator is running at a speed appropriate for the conditions — waves, wakes, visibility, congestion, time of day, the age and experience of the crew, and so on. You leave enough time and distance to react to the unexpected.

In this video captured by the independent Lake of the Ozarks TV station Lake TV, a Fountain high-performance boat appears to be running on the ragged edge when a wake causes the operator to lose total control. You’ll wince as the passengers are tossed about like rag dolls. Think you have to time to brace yourself or tighten your grip on a handhold? Think again.

Mandatory education? It’s a good investment for the industry. Smart, safe, experienced boaters are in it for a lifetime.

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