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Safe at Sea: Hazards can be found on boat docks, but also avoided

By BOB EIDSVOLD - | Sep 16, 2020

Docks are such inviting places, and our surrounding waters offer so many docks to enjoy. We moor boats to the docks, and we swim or fish from the docks. We view and board boats from the docks, and we begin or end a great day on the water from a dock. Seldom do we ever consider a few hazards that may be found on or near a dock as we walk along its deck surface.

Some docks have electric outlets. An extension cord to the outlet may power a boat’s onboard battery charger or tools. One can occasionally find a live cord carelessly left plugged in on a dock while the boat’s owner has taken the boat out for the day. The live electric cord presents a genuine hazard near water, as well as presenting a potential to trip a passerby.

When boaters leave the dock for the day, they often cast lines off to lay on the dock until the boat returns. Occasionally, they can be coiled or hung out of the way, but more often than not, they lay there as a trap for the unsuspecting visitor. Lines, when cast off, should never be left loose in the water. They can be sucked into a propeller, doing serious damage.

When handling the logistics of getting on or off a boat, passengers and crew should be alert to using handgrips and safe step surfaces. Boating stories are replete with tales of how somebody, who did not expect a dunking, came up very wet when caught off balance.

When a person falls from a dock, it usually results in plenty of laughter and most often, that turns out to be a harmless incident for our boating tales. However, there are times when it is important to react by recognizing there could be serious injury. If the water is too deep for the victim to stand up or if the victim is injured, then bystanders will need to react quickly. It is unlikely that an adult can be simply lifted from the water back onto the dock. Some docks have ladders leading up from the water. Some docks or nearby boats have lifesaving rings that can be quickly thrown to somebody in the water.

Some boats have a swim platform at the stern, usually with an integrated ladder. Those onboard should think in terms of helping a person get safely back to shore or back up onto the dock. If there is an injury, everyone needs be very careful to not make it worse. Call for trained medial assistance if there is any doubt about the victim’s condition.

Bob Eidsvold is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and its boating education courses, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.