There are small sailboats on the water that always think they have the right of way. Then there are tourist ducks, personal watercraft and kayaks, and small fishing vessels near bridge pillars. And did I mention surfboards propelled by stand-up paddlers?
All of these boats deserve to be on our waterways. The problem, however, is that too often the operators of these vessels and watercraft don’t know the rules of the road or feel that they are privileged and always have the right of way.
We all wish everyone knew and followed the rules all the time, but it’s a safe bet to assume that most people just don’t have a clue.
Here’s an interesting example. A tourist day boat, sightseeing near an island in Maine, drops anchor for a snack in a small harbor. From out of the blue, a personal watercraft heads straight at them, broadside and at full throttle. At the last second the personal watercraft swerves out of the way and sprays the passengers with its jet wake. But the operator wasn’t done. He performed the maneuver several more times, until the day boat operator called the Coast Guard and local marine patrol.
The day boat captain took out a signal gun and brandished it. The personal watercraft driver got the message and drove off. The captain was cited for his allegedly aggressive act toward the watercraft operator. (The charge was eventually dismissed.)
Yes, summer is here, and with it comes more traffic on our waterways. Among other hazards, summer is a time when some people will be on the water for the first time, and many will spend time in the sun consuming adult beverages.
And let’s not forget the well-publicized incidents of vessel operator inattention because of texting or cell phone use that will only get worse.
It’s a mean place out there on the water and vessel operators must use all of their senses to concentrate on the task at hand — safety. Now is the time to think of how bad it can be out on the water this summer and make mental preparations for the “what ifs” of long summer days.
Any day is a good day for heightened safety. This goes double in the summer.