Yesterday we were out on the lake enjoying the day with friends. Upon returning home, we learned of two boats colliding on a river in Savannah, Georgia. Sadness fell upon me as I thought of the families involved in the accident. They were probably just like us and wished to spend the day together enjoying the water. I’m sure they envisioned lots of laughter and fun, but at 10:30 a.m., two boats collided leaving several dead at the scene and several missing who were later recovered this morning in 14 feet of water near the site of the boat accident.
It is estimated by US Coast Guard statistics that 80% of reported fatalities happen when the operators of these boats have NOT received safety training.
My husband and I took a boating safety class three years ago, and shortly thereafter, we became members of a power squadron at a lake about an hour from our hometown. Safety was of the utmost importance since we planned to have our daughters onboard. We had our vessel inspected to make sure it passed the safety inspection, and we have all of our emergency gear onboard (but pray we never have to use them). We have cruised our local lakes such as Lake Murray, Lake Hartwell, Lake Jocassee, and Lake Keowee. Feeling more confident with our friends in the boat club, we have also ventured out with them in 2020 taking the boat from Charleston to Beaufort, South Carolina on the Intracoastal Waterways. My husband and I loaded up the boat and toured Georgetown, South Carolina on our own and even went to Harker’s Island to visit the Cape Lookout Lighthouse by boat in North Carolina in 2021. That was one of the best and most memorable trips we have taken, and our youngest daughter was onboard during this trip with our oldest daughter taking in the views via FaceTime. The lighthouse was breathtakingly beautiful, and we had the island basically to ourselves to explore. We witnessed dolphins playing, and it was the most peaceful day. One word of caution, though. Research the tides in that area before you set out for the day. Be aware of when low tide is so you will not be stranded and at the mercy of when high tide decides to roll in hours later to lift your boat off the sandy bottom. If you can make it to your destination at low tide, then high tide will be a piece of cake! There were times on our route to the lighthouse that we were nervously navigating through the “S” channel that took us over to the island, but high tide was a breeze coming back!
When we are out on the waters having fun, we are also on guard and aware of our surroundings. We take turns at the helm, and when my husband is driving the boat, I am looking out for any boaters we might cross paths with. He does the same when I’m driving as well. Just because WE know the rules of the water and which boat is to give the right-of-way, others have NOT taken the safety classes and just don’t know what standard protocol is when approaching another boat. We have seen this too many times on the lake, especially on holiday weekends such as this. Just yesterday we encountered a boat that clearly did not know who had the right-of-way, and in this case, even though YOU may know the rules, your first duty is to avoid a collision at all cost! So, you give even when you are supposed to have the right-of-way. You turn the direction you know you aren’t supposed to because they clearly aren’t turning the way they are supposed to either. First and foremost, you are to ensure the safety of your passengers each and every time you step into the boat. You are the captain, and this is your duty! It doesn’t make you any less of a boater because you gave way when you shouldn’t have. Avoiding a collision is what you are called to do each and every time, whether you’re in your car or on your boat!
A lot of speculation is going on at the moment with people betting alcohol was a factor in the accident. There has been reports of one individual boating under the influence (BUI) thus causing the accident that claimed lives and caused injuries yesterday. Sadly, you can be doing everything right and something like this still happens in a spit second. I think of this when we’re on the boat as well. Some wonder HOW this can happen at 10:30 a.m. in broad daylight. It’s one thing if it’s at night and no one has their lights on, although they are supposed to have their navigational lights on at dusk. But at 10:30 a.m.? How could you not see another boat approaching? Speed boat racing, maybe … yes. Two center consoles? NO!
Travel at a reasonable speed!
Keep a look out in the distance for any boaters or jet skiers. Your head almost needs to be on a swivel with the number of boaters on a holiday weekend. Ask someone else in the boat to be on look out with you as well. My husband and I point out vessels we see approaching that might be a threat so we clear the path for them when we see they might not know the rules on the water. Survival has to be an instinct out there, just like breathing air. Safety needs to be a priority! Yes, have fun on the water, enjoy the sun sparkling and reflecting off the water like diamonds, but be SAFE out there.
Check the weather!
We have never been more concerned about the outside conditions until we started riding horses in 2014 and became boat owners in 2018. Before you head out, check to see what the weather will be like and also check the winds. Any time winds are over 10 knots, it can make for a rough day on the water.
I speak for safer boating activities. May 21 through May 27, 2022 was National Safe Boating Week. It’s not too late to join a class or take measures to ensure you and your loved ones are boating safely on the waters! You don’t necessarily have to join a power squadron like we did, but there are things you can do to ensure your family and friends are safe on the water.