By Dick Werner,

I guess I get a little spoiled with our northern Idaho Lakes when, if we have over three boats within visual distance, we Northwest boaters figure it is getting pretty crowded. The several hours I spent on this gorgeous Missouri lake was a different experience. There was a definite need for a traffic controller plus some signal lights. As an example, while I was sitting in one of my friend’s boats, cruising along, there were two boats heading towards us in the opposing direction. Coming up from the rear on each side were two high-performance boats, with their 2-4 engines screaming away pushing their torpedo hulls somewhere between 60-80 mph. To add to this moment of tension, there were two jet skiers swerving in and out! If the driver of the boat were to take his eyes off of his course to take a sip of pop or talk with one of the passengers sitting behind him, we could potentially have had a collision. When we got back to the dock, I asked one of the locals if this “rush hour traffic” was a little abnormal. I was quickly informed that I ought to see it on a summer weekend, because it was pretty mild that day in comparison. On the Friday evening of the meeting week, we were all enjoying a poolside buffet, when, unexpectedly, we were entertained by the thunderous roar of a fly-by from three of those high performance boats, skimming across the Lake at a speed far in excess at what would be recommended for night cruising. I could just imagine what it would be like if one were taking a lovely moonlight cruise when suddenly in front of you, comes this flying fortress at such a speed they probably would have a difficult time spotting your running lights. I guess the only thing you could do is to say a quick prayer and hope they will miss you.

The safety moral of this story is, with boating conditions such as this, the boat driver needs to be thinking very defensively and constantly maintaining his attention on what is going on within several hundred yards of his boat. A frequent 360-degree eyeball sweep would be recommended. I would also recommend having your riders watching for any boats coming up on your port or starboard sides. If you are riding behind some else’s wake, it is so easy for a boat coming up too close to you to get sucked into your side and rearrange several of your beautiful planks. I know that this does not sound like a day of relaxing boating for the drivers. I think it would be much like if you were driving down a highway with several cars heading towards you on the wrong side of the road and at the same time another car is passing you on a curve, while another car is going through a red light at the intersection you are approaching. If you are determined to take the family out on a day like this, make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket, maintain a reasonable, safe speed for the conditions of the day and be sure you and your crew are watching for every approaching boat while heading for the safest, quietest bay you can find. I certainly am not picking on the Lake of the Ozarks, because, I think it is very typical of many very popular overcrowded lakes and rivers in our country. You then throw in a certain percentage of boat owners who, when they get behind the wheel, lose all concept of anything that resembles safe boating. In the winter issue I am going to discuss more about onboard fires.  Remember, we have that highly flammable liquid on board called gasoline. This past summer, Louise and I purposely were making observations of how few people raised their hatch covers before starting their engines, and we noted especially, very few doing it at the gas docks. There may have been a few that had their bilge blowers on, but let’s get real, so few of us boaters have blowers. Brent Howard from the Heartland Chapter is putting together an article on blower installations that he says are fairly inconspicuous but very effective. Enjoy the closing of our boating season for ’05, but please keep your eyes out on the water for any approaching potential collisions.  Drive defensively and make sure your life jackets are accessible.

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