Safety at home
Being safe on the water is no accident
In most boating nightmares, disasters tend to take place out of reach of land as we struggle to survive mid-channel on Long Island Sound or plowing through an offshore squall. The truth is that most boating accidents happen close to home—at the dock, the marina and in the waters we travel regularly.
When it comes to keeping safe in our boating home, familiarity can cause complacency. When leaving for a day’s cruise or returning from a long journey, we often consider ourselves out of harm’s way when we’re inside the buoy marking the entrance to the marina. In reality, the areas near our docks are some of the most dangerous, given the increased boat traffic; the density of piers and other vessels; the play of wind and current that can cause collisions; and the potential for harm while docking and refueling our boat.
Here are a few suggestions to help us see our home waters with an eye toward safety.
One more thing: I am keen on safety drills and the habit of having a thorough safety review with your passengers before you leave the dock.
- Spend some time this winter (and again in spring) surveying your marina for changes. Remember, the removal of a pier or the reconfiguration of a jetty doesn’t mean those areas are free of underwater hazards.
- Find several landmarks to help you determine the direction of the winds passing through your marina. A flag post, the smoke from a factory chimney or the surface of the water in certain areas can let you know what you will encounter when coming into port.
- Make a list of the potential problem areas in the approach to your marina as well as a corresponding list of solutions: places where current and wind regularly make control more difficult, places to tie up in a storm if you can’t safely reach your dock, etc.
- Don’t be shy about speaking up for safety at your marina. If you find a hazard, let management know so it can be corrected. If you spot that once-a-month boater jump into his runabout and turn the ignition without having checked the bilge for gas fume buildup, say something. Perhaps he or she doesn’t know the danger, and your mentioning it might save a life.