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Boating Exposures Part 2

Part 2 of 5

A Spare Set of Eyes Is Always Good

Navigating waterways at night is challenging, especially because objects of “neutral buoyancy,” such as tree trunks, telephone poles, freight containers, tractor trailer cabs and general large pieces of garbage or debris, can float just below the surface and pose imminent danger to a vessel.

A captain may carry wooden dowels to repair the smallest sudden puncture hole, but a collision with this naturally buoyant debris could cause serious harm. Potentially, your boat could sink.

The captain must concentrate on operations and monitoring instruments: his GPS for direction, his surface radar for buoys and other vessels, his sounder to forewarn of shallow depth. As a result, the captain cannot see these other dangerous objects under the surface before it is too late. A lookout or second mate, on the other hand, can concentrate on keeping his or her eyes peeled for just those dangers.

A lookout also performs another function: In the event of a “man overboard,” he or she is responsible for watching the overboard person. Currents and waves can displace the person. The lookout must make sure the “man overboard” does not get near the propeller, which is a common source of fatalities when a passenger or crew member falls overboard.

Boating Under the Influence and Careless Behavior: Resounding “No’s”

Yes, you’ve heard this before, but there are definite dangers involved with boating under the influence.

According to information from the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray of the marine environment accelerate a drinker's impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator's coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster than under normal alcohol usage.

U.S. Coast Guard data show that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, more than half of victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard. What’s more, recent Coast Guard statistics list alcohol as one of the top 10 contributing factors of accidents, including careless/reckless operation, operator inattention, passenger/skier behavior and excessive speed.

Alcohol also can be more dangerous to boaters because boat operators are often less experienced and less confident on the water than on the highway. Recreational boaters don't have the benefit of experiencing daily boat operation. In fact, boaters average only 110 hours on the water per year, according to the Coast Guard.

Aligned with proper behavior is the need to be aware of the admiralty law in the area in which you are sailing. The law varies from state-to-state and country-to-country. Make sure you know the maritime rules and limitations and restrictions on your travel route and at your destination. Learn the specific call procedures for emergency situations in those areas.

Next: A Word About Fire Extinguishers (part 3 of 5)

The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.