As a professional mariner and business owner, I am committed to safety. The safety of my passengers and crew are at the forefront of how I approach my job each day.
Crew training and drills are particularly important. These two items are a given and what we do as professionals. Those of us who work on the water witness a variety of unsafe activities from recreational boat operators. Most of the unsafe actions are the result of inexperience and a lack of knowledge of the rules of the road. There are many instances in which professional mariners compensate for or avoid boaters’ dangerous behavior to prevent problems and injuries.
Similar to commercial vessels, recreational boats are required to have life vests on board. This is a smart requirement. Life vests have been proven to save lives in emergencies.
But there is one group of boaters who ply most U.S. waters who are not required to have life vests on board — racing sculls. Recently, there was an accident involving a racing scull in which one of the student athletes was killed. Would he have survived if a life vest was required on the scull?
Racing sculls are currently exempt from life jacket requirements in waters considered navigable by the Coast Guard. All racing sculls should be required to carry life jackets on board or on their person. With current technology and innovation in life jacket technology, the Coast Guard should review racing sculls and life jackets and take some positive action. I have heard from many individuals that because rowers are athletes, they do not need life jacket protection.
The idea that a life jacket gets in the way of competitive rowing is negated by the fact that both teams would have the same advantage or disadvantage. To think that a small uninflated ring around someone’s neck and chest would be in the way is shortsighted. All sports can adapt as situations require.
Serious discussions about adding a life jacket requirement for racing sculls should be held.