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Going boating? Keep common sense and courtesy on board

By WILBUR SCOTT
Published July 9, 2006


I typically do not venture out onto the water during weekends or holidays. However, I made an exception during this past holiday weekend.

On July 3, I went down the Homosassa River and out into the Gulf of Mexico. I had forgotten it was opening day of scallop season, and once in the gulf I could see that the horizon was wall-to-wall boats.

It was about 8:30 a.m. when I approached Marker 14, and there was a lot of boat traffic heading out toward Marker 4 to join the other boats already there or perhaps heading offshore for some grouper fishing.

Many smaller fishing boats were in the area, anchored or drift fishing for sea trout. It was a beautiful day, and I was happy to be on the water.

This column is not about sightseeing along our beautiful area waters, but instead is about safe boating. During my time on the water that day, I observed numerous safe and courteous vessel operators. I also witnessed a large number of vessel operators who were not very safe skippers or very considerate of others.

I observed operators who would reduce or increase speed without warning to their passengers, who could be seen tumbling onto the deck. Some boaters were following or passing other craft too closely. Operators of vessels sometimes forget that boats do not have brakes.

The wise skipper, before reducing speed or making a turn, will look behind his or her vessel to be sure that another boat is not dangerously close behind. I also observed several boats with children riding on the bow with their legs dangling over the front of the boat. This is very dangerous, and it is illegal as well.

In the river, especially, I observed several small fishing boats that were almost swamped by larger offshore-type boats traveling well above the legal speed and creating wakes that nearly capsized the smaller boats. Courtesy and common sense would, or should, tell the skipper of a large vessel to slow down when approaching a small craft.

Common sense also should tell the operator of a small craft not to anchor in or very close to a channel. The skipper of a small boat, while under way and upon seeing the approach of a larger vessel, should carefully reduce speed and cross the wake of the larger vessel at a 45-degree angle.

Homosassa Flotilla 15-04 of your U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary reminds boaters that more than 2,000 people lost their lives in boating accidents last year. Many of these accidents could have been prevented by simple precautions such as proper loading, life jackets, emergency rations, first aid supplies, emergency signaling devices or fire extinguishers.

If you are taking your boat out this weekend, check all of these things carefully.

As a safety-conscious skipper and one who cares about the safety of those on board your vessel, you will be sure your vessel has all of the necessary safety equipment.

Please remember, drinking and driving do not mix, and neither do drinking and operating a vessel.

Editor's note: This is one of a series of guest columns that run periodically. Wilbur B. Scott is assistant public affairs officer for Flotilla 15-04 of Homosassa. Visit its Web site at www.uscgaux.org/~0701504/. To contact him, e-mail seacapt34447@yahoo.com or write to P.O. Box 2084, Homosassa Springs, FL 34447-2084.