At least 76 died in Florida boating accidents in
2010. The count does not include two men who
slammed their airboat into a tree on dry land.
This was Florida’s Fish and Wildlife’s Dec. 15
total. We can assume that just before midnight on
New Year's Eve a few more fell off wobbly boats
and drowned even as they held firmly to a cup of
good cheer. It will be determined that about 85
percent of these "victims" were not wearing life
I think Florida's stats, times ten, are a
reasonable proxy for U.S. totals. The United
States Coast Guard reported 736 boating deaths in
Boating fatality reports are usually accompanied
by a recommendation -- I vigorously concur -- that
boaters take a boating safety course.
I would add only that fools and/or drunks need not
apply. I just read about one bass boater racing to
be first to his honey hole. Speeding 75 mph in a
narrow creek he failed to navigate a sharp bend
and accompanied the boat on a high-speed
Boating how-to instruction is also about boating
safety. At Florida Sailing & Cruising School
almost everything taught during our three-day
liveaboard course, Basic Powerboat Handling
(P-101), concerns boating safety. It includes
instruction about how everything on the boat works
and what to do if it doesn't.
Lessons: Bring spares. Become a do-it-yourselfer.
Know how to get rescued and how to keep everybody
alive while you wait.
You can also go to "school" by reviewing previous
boating accidents to determine what should have
been done differently.
The case of the Gouge family rescue – four men and
three male children – is one such accident. In
September, while fishing 21 miles offshore of
Charleston, S.C., their 38-foot boat started
taking on water in the engine compartment.
Could the leak have been prevented? Could it have
been fixed or minimized after it started? What
about a manual bilge pump or a bucket brigade?
The flooding got worse. They called for help on a
marine radio but the signal heard by the Coast
Guard was garbled. The boat was 21.5 miles from
shore but the Coast Guard thought it was 1.5 miles
from shore. Were there no backup radios? Could the
call for help have gone out sooner?
As the water poured in one person onboard
collected cell phones and flares and stowed them
in a forward compartment. But later a wave rushed
aboard and swept all of it into the water. Where
would you have put them?
The Coast Guard restarted the search at 10 p.m.
after one of the wives phoned from home. Sharp
crew eyes aboard one of the CG copters noticed a
break in the moon’s reflection on the water.
Bingo. They were able to save all seven. They were
wearing life preservers. But why were they not in
Some people say stop it already with this fear
stuff. They say that nobody will ever buy or
charter a boat if all they hear about is what can
I say confront these issues before pushing off.
You'll have a lot more fun knowing you are