Letter to the editor: Wisdom for boaters without ‘local knowledge’ – Bryan County News

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Editor:

Boating accidents on our Georgia coast, some with fatalities, have been in the news lately and it seems, more frequently than in years past.

Local boating safety issues can be attributed to many things. Our growing population of boaters is a major factor along with a demonstrated lack of knowledge in basic boating safety and skills, an absence of “Local” knowledge and often, an absence of common sense! Speed is the major cause of serious boating accidents on the Georgia coast. With few exceptions, there are no speed limits and simply no authority to slow you down if you are speeding or driving recklessly.

The “online” boating security course is in numerous cases required before you can operate a boat in Georgia waters. It will not necessarily prepare you for overcoming absence of “Local knowledge” which would include an understanding of currents, tides, constantly changing depths in waters along our own coast  and a multitude of hazards that might be new to some boaters.

We have an abundance of oyster rakes and crab traps. Both the particular oyster rakes and the traps can destroy an aluminum prop, tear up your hull and cost you an expensive tow and repairs. Buy a steel prop for Georgia waters.

Georgia’s five big rivers flowing swiftly from far inland to the ocean can present special challenges with partially submerged debris, I. E. floating logs. If you are in any of those rivers a person must keep a constant lookout.


The skipper/captain is legally responsible with regard to the safety of his/ her passengers. That responsibility extends to other nearby boaters. The helmsman/skipper of a boat must be constantly aware of what is around and especially within front of them. That would include dolphins, sea turtles and manatees. They all have the right of way!

Have a crew member assist in navigating. What is in front of you such as sandbars or sunken objects can very quickly be  under or through your hull! If another boat is exceeding the safe speed, for instance on a blind curve or even in low visibility, (listen to the engine RPMs). Stop or slow down. Use lighting (flashing light) and noise (air horn) to show your position. Don’t play chicken!

Most coastal boaters  are respectful of each  other and practice safe  boating. A skipper is  legally responsible for  any damage his wake causes.   Inevitably there will  become a snowbird’s 50 foot  trawler ploughing through  at top speed on the particular ICW  trying to clear the Georgia  coast before low tide!   They may be throwing both  a bow wake and the stern  wake and your 20 footer  may not handle either  very well, especially if you are anchored.

It will be said that there is usually nothing like a cold beer on a hot day upon the water. One reason there is nothing like it is because of the swiftness with which alcohol affects people in boats. One ale consumed on the water is estimated to equal three on land. (Mayo Clinic Research) Look  in your wife and babies and friends and leave the alcohol consumption for another day.

I have lost track as to how many times over the particular years that we have come across boaters with one or more missing pieces of necessary equipment. No cover from the sun, no water, no gas, no radio, no flares, not enough life jackets or right sized ones. There they are, high and dry on the mud bar waiting for the incoming tide to float them again. Stay in the boat! You might just wade into that deep water and disappear or perhaps find a razor sharp oyster shell. Don’t depend on your gas gage unless you are very sure of its accuracy then use less than half a tank going out. Changes in weather and especially the tide will have a direct effect on fuel consumption.

Getting stuck on a sandbar or mud bar waiting around as much as 8 to 10 hours upon a rising tide in order to float you off can be life threatening. Try finding your way back to a strange dock within strange waters in the particular dark! That’s after surviving hours of hot sunlight and more  hours associated with cold night and, oh yes! Kids on board! Go slow in strange waters. Rule of thumb. IF you slide up on a sandbar slowly there is definitely a good possibility that you can slide right back off!

Can’t call Sea Tow. Simply no radio. Can’t call anyone because the cell phone battery is dead or even there is no signal. Can’t send a distress signal because there are usually no flares. The marina doesn’t even know you are overdue because there is no float plan, much the same as a flight plan.

Ok, I confess, I have learned the depth of the bottom out there through the “touch” system more than once! I also found out the particular hard way how much gasoline my hog of an inboard/  outboard burned one  way! Then there was that time the batteries in my cell phone maintained a charge just long enough regarding me to call intended for help. Help didn’t possess a boat! I still had to row the fat boat with a short paddle half the night!

Roy Hubbard, Richmond Hill

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