I feel like I need to start this article out by clarifying the title. I often push the idea of having the proper knowledge and skillset to safely pilot your vessel on the water. In other words, you should make every effort to be a qualified captain, right? This is true. The title of this article references a popular social media hashtag that is being used to highlight individuals who make less than optimal decisions while operating a boat or a personal watercraft.

In a world where practically everyone has a phone that takes pictures and video, it is hard to do anything in public without the possibility of it being recorded. The prevalence of social media means that much of that recorded content is going to end up being a feast for the eyes of people looking for entertainment. Some time ago, someone came up with the idea of taking a picture or video of a fellow boater that was suffering from the consequences of a bad decision made while on the water. It was posted to social media using the hashtag #qualifiedcaptain. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ever since then, a quick search on social media using that hashtag will result in a plethora of images and videos of people that have made bad decisions on the water and what the results were. There is even an Instagram page and a website dedicated to the concept. You may even see someone wearing a Qualified Captain T-shirt or hat.

So, what does this all have to do with boating safety? I do believe that a lot of people think that boating is easier than it is. They think that all you have to do is point the boat in the direction that you want to go and push the throttle forward.  This could not be further from the truth. There is a pool of knowledge and skill needed to make sure that enjoying a day on the water can be done correctly and safely. It is not rocket-science. Anyone can learn it. But still, it must be learned.

The content that can be found using the #qualifiedcaptain can be entertaining, but if you think about it, it can also be educational. This is a short list of some of the content that I ran across when doing a simple hashtag search:

They are not going anywhere

There is the guy with a beer in his hand, trying to climb onto the boat from a beach. He falls off multiple times because he is clearly under the influence. If you look closely, you will notice the boat is on the bottom because the water is too shallow. There are not going anywhere and that is a good thing.

Getting friendly with the dock

There are a lot of these. Boaters trying to approach a dock or slip and ending up on top of the dock.  Usually this is a result of inexperience leading to the operator panicking with the throttle.

That’s not a boat

Boat launching gone wrong where the tow vehicle ends up in the water. This happens launching anything from jet skis to large cruisers.

On the rocks

A picture of a very nice 35-foot cruiser firmly up on a rock island.  The interesting thing is that there was a lighthouse on the island.  Was it alcohol? Was it at night and the operator became disoriented? I don’t know.

All of these incidents could have been prevented if the operators had the proper knowledge and made better decisions. If you have not done so already, consider taking a boating safety class.  America’s Boating Club has a chapter right here in Atlanta and they offer them. There are also classes that you can take online. If you purchase a boat, have someone spend some time with you so you can become familiar with the vessel. Finally, make good decisions when out on the water. Don’t leave your common sense at the dock. If you don’t do this, people may see you the next time they search for #qualifiedcaptain.