Friday, August 5, 2011

Safe Boating During Seafair

Contributed by Norm Nyhuis, Trainer / Consultant, Evergreen Safety Council
 If you are planning on taking your boat out on Lake Washington to enjoy the Seafair Festivities take a moment first to insure your boat is properly equipped to make it a safe weekend.

You must have one properly sized life jacket (personal flotation device) for every person on board. Every life jacket is labeled by the manufacturer as to the size and weight of person it is intended to fit, correctly.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that a life jacket that will "support" an adult is certainly good for a child, who probably weighs significantly less than an adult. Children can easily slip out of a too-large life jacket, with all too often tragic results. Children below the age of 12 must wear their life jacket if they are on an open deck or in an open boat. There are no exceptions to this rule.

On a previous Seafair weekend several years ago, the patrol boat I was on encountered a sleek looking cabin cruiser, but the boat looked "odd". It was floating about a foot to a foot and a half lower in the water than its usual water line. Reason: there were nearly 50 people aboard a 36 ft boat. The boat was grossly overloaded, and to top it off the skipper could only produce 11 life jackets of any kind. Of the 11, two were found to be defective upon inspection, and therefore unusable. This cruise was immediately terminated, and the overloaded vessel was escorted to the nearest shoreline where all but a maximum of nine people at a time could be transported back to their home dock.

The skipper also appeared to have consumed a "cold one" or probably several "cold ones", so his wife assured us she could, and would, operate the boat, as she had not been drinking. The boarding officer gave them the benefit of the doubt, allowed the wife to take it back to shore to off load the extra people and the story should have ended at this point,

However, about two hours later the same boat - this time at least not overloaded - was seen being operated by the skipper who had been warned earlier about "drinking and driving". This time, the boarding officer placed the skipper under arrest, and since there was no one else aboard who had not been drinking - this man's wife was NOT aboard during the second encounter - the boat was taken in tow by a commercial towing vessel, back to their marina. As you can guess it was a very expensive lesson to learn.

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