Recently, I was a witness to two separate events that really made me aware of the importance of boating education. I have always felt boating education is important, but these two incidents really highlighted the concept for me.
The first incident occurred while I was out riding my PWC. I noticed a small boat in a no-wake zone headed toward the main part of the lake. There were two adult men and two small kids on the boat. I do not know the circumstances for sure, but it appeared two dads were taking their two daughters out for a day on the lake. I remember thinking that this father-daughter bonding time was really sweet. Then I noticed that the two little girls (who looked to be around 5 or 6 years old) did not have life jackets on.
I usually mind my own business, but I felt that was not prudent in this case. I approached the vessel and informed the operator that DNR could issue a ticket with a pretty hefty fine if they saw the two girls with no life jackets on in a moving boat. They indicated that they thought there just needed to be life jackets on board. I told them that they were right, but when occupants are below the age of 13, they need to be wearing life jackets any time the boat is moving. They thanked me and I went on my way.
The second incident occurred when I was asked to help a boater who had run aground. Apparently, he was out cruising and unknowingly went into a shallow area where his boat got hung up on a submerged rock. Just as soon as I arrived, I recognized that there was a marker in the area warning boaters not to go into the area where he had gotten stuck. I was unable to free his boat with my boat, so he eventually had to call for a tow. The tow boat finally freed him after a couple of hours of work. After this incident there was surely some damage to the boat that required repairs.
When I think about these two incidents, I realize that they could have been prevented with proper boating education. Hopefully, the two little girls put on their life jackets and a ticket never had to be issued to the operator of the boat in the first incident. The second incident certainly could have been avoided had the operator recognized the marker and not proceeded into the shallow area.
When a company rents a boat, they typically require the operator to have passed a boating safety course or they may require you to watch a boating safety video prior to leaving the dock. In the state of Georgia, a person can buy a boat and operate it without any type of training if they were born before Jan 1, 1988. If you plan to or already operate a boat, please consider taking a boating safety course if you have not already done so. It could end up saving you a lot of money and heartache.
Here are some options that are available to you if you need to find a class:
- America’s Boating Club – Atlanta, www.americasboatingclubatlanta.org
- U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, www.cgaux.org
- BoatUS Foundation, www.boatus.org/georgia
And of course, this newspaper runs a section each month offering boating and water safety resources during the season. Just check elsewhere in this and future editions.
Happy and safe boating.