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Safe at Sea: Boating for all ages

By PAT SCHMIDT - | Oct 27, 2020

Recently, I read an article entitled “Boating Tip for Older Adults” and mid-way through I thought, “This article might have been better titled, ‘Boating Tips for the Young and the Old.'”

None of the tips were eye-opening, but the one over-arching theme which we rarely consider is the importance of the captain being in good health and maintaining his/her fitness. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we talk regularly about our health and that of those we love; however, in addition to wearing masks, washing hands and socially distancing, we all have an obligation to work on being in physical shape to captain our boats.

This means taking stock of our abilities and our limitations, particularly our sight, hearing, mobility and stamina. Also, as captain, you should touch base with the crew and, likewise, consider their physical abilities. Ask your fellow boaters how they are feeling, are they comfortable with boating, do they feel capable to completing tasks on board.

Certainly, the fundamental steps to safe boating — for all ages – occur before anyone steps on board:

– Check the boat’s equipment.

– Complete a pre-departure checklist. (Don’t have one? Google “Pre-Departure Checklist Boating.”)

– Monitor the weather.

– Make sure the first aid bag is well-stocked.

– Complete a Float Plan.

Once you’re on board, assign a back-up skipper who, if necessary, is able at least to stop the vessel, call for assistance and anchor the boat — in that order.

Then, as you are preparing to get under way, complete these simple tasks. Assign a lookout to watch/listen for hazards. This is particularly important if you are leaving from a canal or waterway where there are tight quarters — not to mention manatees. Also, remember not to overload the boat.

Perhaps the best piece of “new” advice I picked up from the article is “Practice the What Ifs.”

– What do you do when something goes wrong?

– What if someone falls overboard?

– What if the boat has a mechanical problem?

– What if someone gets hurt?

– What if you have a heart attack or a stroke?

– What if the weather changes?

– What if the electronics go down.

Certainly, safe boating requires focused attention by you, the captain, and all your crew.

Pat Schmidt 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.