Capt. Fred Davis

When I began writing, my objective was to help boaters understand what can and does happen on the water around the country. To aid me in my effort I studied statistics, safety equipment, and boat design. I read numerous industry articles, magazines, and news releases. I also interviewed manufacturers and conducted “hands-on” testing of boats and equipment. All of my studies lead to one conclusion, in most accident cases the operator made a major error.

Because of the amount of time I spend on the water, I witness mistakes operators make many times, I have even made a few myself. It’s not hard to do and does not always lead to a dramatic result - but it can.

I’ve written numerous columns on navigation and boating safety as well as how to use equipment. Many of my readers relate to these articles and learn from them while others query and say, “Can that really happen?” My answer is always YES!

You don’t have to be a beginner boater to find yourself in the midst of a mistake, a bad judgment call or navigational error. These problems often confront seasoned operators; those looked upon as old salts (an expression describing one who has spent years at sea).

In many of my articles, I refer to proper knowledge of the operation of a vessel’s equipment. In evaluating cases, I have learned proper knowledge is only half of the equation. Applying the knowledge is the other half. Most of this knowledge applies on all waters - large or small. The result can range from a pleasant cruise on a large body of water, floating around on a pontoon on a pond, to the loss of your watercraft or even your life.

In most vessel groundings I encountered while working in my salvage business, the captains of the craft offered the same comment. They may have been fishermen in small runabouts, captains of large cruisers or sailboat operators. The most common first statement is in the form of a question, “Why isn’t this rocky reef area marked?” My answer was always the same, “most of them are.” The reef most often encountered in my area, is marked with a huge lighthouse in addition to marker buoys. Boaters ignore them or worse yet, don’t recognize their meaning. A towering lighthouse sitting two miles offshore seems to display to some a “come hither, look at me quality” when its real meaning is, “warning - stay away.”

Common sense should dictate a building made of cement and brick; rising over 50 feet toward the sky, must be supported by something solid at its base.

Common sense would suggest it might be a good idea to get out your “area” chart and find out what that support is.

During one boating season, I witnessed over half a million dollars in losses in a thirty day period. Each loss could easily have been avoided. The vessels involved where each equipped with GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and each were said to have a chart. The common element that doomed them was the two were not used together.

I have written many times a GPS gives you a line course as the crow flies, which could be over land, or reefs. The result of not checking the chart is often disaster.

So I will write again and again but some won’t read and others won’t pay attention. In those cases, I hope they have read their insurance policy but that’s another story.


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