You’re out for a day of fun on the water. The weather is excellent, forecast for a few storms later in the day, water is warm, and the surface is calm at the moment. The operator of the vessel is a seasoned professional that has boated for many years. Suddenly, for whatever reason, the vessel’s captain becomes incapacitated and cannot operate the boat.

The big question soon follows: Who’s next to pilot the boat safely?

How many of you that enjoy boating has a contingency plan for such a situation?

Resolving such an unfortunate scenario is as simple as adding one more qualified and competent operator. There should be someone else on board that has the knowledge and capability to react or handle any situation that may occur.

The initial step to accomplishing that goal is primarily basic safety training and showing by example and experience how to operate the vessel. Get familiar with the fundamentals, then progress to the more complex parts of the learning process. Each manufacturer and class of boat has an operating manual for understanding and directing all systems correctly. There are countless things to comprehend: engineering, helm, navigation, electronics, emergency equipment, and communications. The list can get very long, depending on your specific boat model and type.

One method to immediately improve your overall boating experience is for everyone, including passengers, to know what to do in case of an emergency. Take time to brief everyone onboard the general voyage plan, rules to follow while underway, how to wear a lifejacket, and where they are stowed. As stated by the U.S. Coast Guard statistics in all boating safety and license courses, the primary cause of boating fatalities is drowning. Take classes in person, even online, to gather this information.

There are five core skills to develop proficiency:

  • Know how to use the radio or other communications systems on your vessel
  • Understand and comply with the Navigation Rules of the Road
  • Develop a feel for the way the boat handles in various conditions and maneuvers
  • Effective operation of boating safety equipment, and
  • Voyage planning and primary navigation

Creating the enhanced safety for your vessel is achievable, especially with having an additional pilot when out on the water, just in case. Addressing this need has a long-term positive benefit to all aspects of your underway experience. The majority of boating safety awareness is preparation. This concept of an additional driver is one of the best and most impactful factors in that objective.