Boating: Knowledge can be a disadvantage!
April 27, 2011
I was running a large powerboat in a narrow section of the waterway recently when I came upon a slower moving powerboat. I prepared to pass the Sun Blazer 38 so I sounded two prolonged blasts of my horn indicating that my vessel was passing on the Port (left) side.
Since I didn't get a horn blast in return I assumed the slower Sun Blazer 38 was in agreement. When our vessels were roughly abeam of each other, a distinguished looking man with salt and pepper hair and a seemingly nautical air about him, emerged from beneath the upper station's canvas cover and gave me the middle finger salute. I've seen this more than once on the waterway. It usually follows a violent rocking of a vessel after an ignorant skipper passed a boat badly.
I had come down off plane a full boat length before reaching the Sun Blazer 38 and afforded the Sun Blazer 38 a short span of smooth water to enter as I passed. But the skipper was too busy showing me what he thought of my horn blowing and missed the narrow space of smooth water. The hole in my wake was missed, and his boat was rocked by the following waves.
I went back onto plane and the Sun Blazer 38 was quickly far behind. Then it hit me; the skipper of the Sun Blazer 38 was unaware of the simplest rules of navigation. It amazes me how people with a checkbook can purchase huge vessels without a scintilla of boating knowledge?
While relating the story to the “Dead End Canal Yacht Club” members recently, I was surprised by the animosity displayed by our members toward the saluting skipper.
“If you KNOW the rules of the road, you are in big trouble! We are at a disadvantage on the waterway! I've given up on the Inland Rules and now follow the Chinese rule of the road, 'Big Boat Go First,” said 'Bug Hollow Jake.' He's our only West Virginia member. Jake did 30 in the Navy and reminds everyone of an older Cap'n Ron.
“It could be that since none of us are practicing good seamanship, the concept is eroding,” said the Professor.
“There are way to many problems. No enforcement is the biggest thing that I see. We can't chase down errant boaters who zigzag through anchored vessels or speed through Manatee Zones,” said Boston Bob.
“I think the enforcement is adequate. The lack of knowledge is astounding. Just talk to any of the water cops and they'll tell you stories that will make your skin crawl,” said 'Moose Jaw Sam'.
“You can't drive a car if you don't take a drivers test which includes a written exam. How come you can buy a Bar Slammer without a license? Take it out on a Sunday, run close along the beach and then rooster tail out of there. And what's the fine,” asked 'Bug Hollow Jake.'
“I'm afraid not so much as to make them want to take a safe boating course. Everyone exaggerates his or her knowledge. Many years ago I was selling powerboats at Compass Rose Marina, and I sold a 19-foot bow-rider to a family man who claimed he was a long-time boater. He didn't want me to accompany he and his family on their maiden voyage. So, I locked the door and drove around to the Channel Mark and, just when I took my first sip, someone said, 'That nut just drove his boat up on the sand bar.' I didn't have to turn around to know who it was.”
“That shouldn't be funny, but it is,” Boston Bob said and then he laughed.
“It wasn't funny because he didn't know how to extract himself from that sand bar. He did a lot of damage to his brand new boat. In the morning his boat was in a slip and, a few days later, his wife called and asked us to sell it for them! It was a very expensive lesson,” I said.
“How long does a Coast Guard Auxillary safe boating course take these days,” asked Cleveland Chuck.
“When I took my Boating Skills and Seamanship course it was 13 weekly sessions of three hours each. I've never felt more confident on a boat than now,” said Carol, the wife of Cap'n Crunch. “I wanted a refresher course since my dear old Captain now lets me drive more. Besides that, I remember the lady who got so shook up and forgot how to use the radio when her husband had a heart attack.”
“I've always married smart girls,” said Cap'n Crunch.
Boatguy Ed is a retired bottom paint maker and is currently a volunteer extra on his son's Boater's Treasures television show which sells half priced dining certificates, www.boaterstreasures.com. Send your comments to boatguiEd@aol.com!