Paul and Mary loved their thirty-foot Edgewater. Just about every weekend, they would go on a boating excursion on the Columbia River. Paul loved to fish, and Mary just loved being outside, in the fresh air, where she could enjoy a bit of reading. One day, they decided to get a little adventurous and cross the Columbia River Bar for a little sightseeing in the Pacific. They weren’t going to be gone long, so they didn’t think to file a plan with the Coast Guard or tell anyone what they were doing. Bad choice.
About an hour into the cruise, when they had just reached the point to where land was no longer in sight, tragedy struck. Bob felt a tightening in his chest, then a sharp pain shooting down his left arm. He was sweating and out of breath and collapsed onto the deck. Bob had had a heart attack. Mary went into crisis mode. She’d been a nurse for 30 years, so she knew how to care for her husband, who was alive but unconscious. What she didn’t know was how to get back to land, to the medical services Bob so desperately needed. Bob was always the captain, and he neglected to teach Mary any basic disaster management. He always said he was going to teach her, but never quite got around to it. Today, Mary wishes Paul had taught her those things he had promised to teach her. Now it’s too late.
This tragic story happens more often than you might think. Stories of people dying because the captain of the boat is incapacitated and the “crew” has no basic knowledge of how to behave in a crisis. If you own a boat or if you know someone who does, basic skills are essential. Passengers on a boat have responsibilities, and knowing them can be the difference between life and death.
Drill, Drill, Drill
Whenever my family owned a boat, the most important thing was safety. And a big part of making sure we were all ready for a surprise catastrophe was to drill. Dad would have everyone on board take the wheel and man the helm. We would each be the skipper for a while, getting to know the controls and how to start and stop the boat, and completing a man overboard drill. Conduct these drills on a regular basis if you own a watercraft. You won’t be sorry you did.
Everyone aboard should know how to locate the VHF radio and call for assistance!
The Coast Guard Auxiliary is an all-volunteer organization whose main purpose is to assist with the public safety part of the Coast Guard’s mission. They offer many beneficial courses, many of which are at no cost to you. One course, entitled ‘Suddenly in Command’ is only 4 hours long and comes highly recommended for anyone who does not possess the strongest boating skills but who’s going to be on boats. Even seasoned captains have been known to learn a thing or two, so take the class…it could save a life.