How many of us board a boat with the expectation that the boat will sink before we get home safely? I would say no one, including some captains. A storm in Branson, Mo., caught an amphibious craft loaded with tourists, seemingly unawares. The tragic result of this boating accident was that 17 people lost their lives. I have owned boats, worked on Coast Guard boats and ridden on many different types of boats. I have been on boats that broke down, while under way. I have also gone aboard many boats that were taking on water, and were in danger of sinking, which some did, but some were saved. The point of this article is to hold captains and boat crews accountable to their responsibilities for the people aboard their vessels. It is also necessary to hold pleasure boat captains responsible for the people aboard their vessel.
Every boat that leaves a dock is required by Coast Guard regulations to carry safety equipment that is in good repair. Some of that equipment includes: life jackets for each person on board, throwable device, anchor, properly operating navigation lights for nighttime, fire extinguisher, horn, whistle or sounding device, flare kit, and proper display of boat registration number or documented vessel number.
These pieces of equipment must be readily accessible. The time that it takes you to dig these items out could mean the difference between life and death.
If you are on a boat that you have paid to be aboard, then there are things that you should expect. The captain on the boat should be a licensed captain. The crew is responsible for the safety of every person onboard, ever vigilant for anything that could hurt someone. Storms come up quickly and the captain of any boat should be monitoring the weather constantly. It is the captain’s responsibility to keep everyone on the vessel out of harm’s way. I have been on many different boats in heavy seas.
Things take on a different look when the body of water that you are on is angry, snotty as some salts would say. Whether someone goes overboard, the boat starts taking on water or the vessel must be abandoned, the captain and crew must be trained and ready to respond to the emergency.
It is important that every boat that goes out should have a travel plan and that someone on land knows where the boat is going. Some type of communication, whether it’s a cell phone, a marine radio, or a satellite phone is necessary for the wellbeing of everyone onboard. Overdue boats are normally reported by a marina or a family member.
In the case of the Branson accident, eyewitnesses were interviewed that saw the boat taking on water.
From news reports, it sounds like the layout of the boats in Branson made it difficult for people to get out of the inside or cabin area quickly. If there is a problem with a boat where safety is concerned, fix the problem, before people lose their lives.
I have also been caught on many bodies of water in storms. Whatever you do in a storm is critical to everyone’s safety, which starts with avoiding getting caught in a storm if possible.
May all your boating experiences be good, but be prepared for things that we normally do not think about.