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VOL. 10 NO. 1
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Avoid operator errors

To avoid trouble, you must look for it

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An airplane crash investigation centers on two primary factors: mechanical failure and pilot error. While it’s human nature to look for a broken piece of equipment to blame, the latest U.S. Coast Guard statistics reveal that when it comes to on-the-water accidents, pilot error is usually the first culprit.

According to the statistics, the top three contributing factors causing injury or death on the water are operator inattention, operator inexperience and improper lookout. When it comes to keeping a better lookout, here are a few things to consider:

Know your water before you leave the dock. As a responsible pilot, you need to anticipate problems so you can keep a careful watch for dangers while underway. In addition to studying the chart for your particular route, you should make a broader analysis of the area paying attention to the current, tide and wind. Make a list of dangers to watch out for. The good news is that the pilot who looks for trouble may very well avoid it.

Learn to read the surface of the water. I first fell in love with the water as a 4-year-old when I observed the magical patterns that formed around my little wooden bobber on the gentle Catskill pond in which I fished. That bobber is now mounted in the cabin of my Melodic as a reminder that to be safe on the water, I must continuously learn its language.

The water’s surface is a rich source of information for pilots. It lets us know the direction and speed of the current. A short chop speaks to the direction and intensity of the wind. It exposes floating items to be avoided, and those odd-angled, broad V patterns that appear on the surface warn of hidden underwater debris. Sometimes a solitary exposed reed is all the indication a pilot gets that the bow is about to run aground on an uncharted Hudson River mudflat.

No GPS or Internet connection can compare to a trained pilot’s eye continuously interpreting the surface of the water ahead.
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