Most small craft (by definition under 65 feet) are not truly designed for passenger safety forward of the windshield underway at speed. Certainly there are bow riders that are and I am sure there will be many who will justify others, but in reality, you are riding a bucking bronco with little to keep you in the saddle forward of the windshield and there aren’t any rodeo clowns out there to pick your bruised and battered body up out of the water if you do get bucked out.
Dangling your feet over the bow pulpit is outrageously stupid, yet I see it just about every busy weekend on the water. There seems to be little understanding of what damage is done by the impact of a body hitting the water at speed or of the propeller and underwater gear hitting a body at any speed. Most boaters have a fearless “I am the Captain and nothing will happen on my watch” attitude. Years of experience (often luck) protect them. They ignore the kill switch, leave the life jackets under the skis, oars and a ton of other stuff until the winter lay-up comes along and then don’t check them for proper function. They couldn’t get a throwable out and to a man overboard in five minutes, much less in the seconds required. Yes, the throwable is to be immediately available, not just somewhere on the boat!
So why is it when I see advertisements in print and video media, that I am seeing beautifully restored pictures of a flawless cityscape and a boat charging off-shore with two beautiful, scantily clad women “lounging” on the sun pad as if it was a sunny day anchored off the beach? What are we (yes, even I am in the media, too) thinking when we set up a shot like this where we spit safety in the eye? That might make good eye-candy for the cover of a magazine on the newsstand, but it is dangerous and uncomfortable for the models, setting a bad example for boaters who don’t know any better, and is downright silly.
Even if the seas were flat, which they rarely are, a sudden dodge to miss one of those millions of crab traps, will send anyone flying. They will get shredded by the life lines and railings and dumped unceremoniously into the water. Bikinis don’t have flotation folks! Few of us can hold back our body weight being suddenly flung at speed. Try putting a 5 pound bag of sand on a line and have someone throw it at 30mph. (Actually, don’t because you will dislocate your hand, arm or something and try to sue me.)
We all need to step back and do the right thing. Just like the fishing pros, we need to use safety gear properly and every time. We need to avoid putting our passengers in harmful situations or depict anyone enjoying an unsafe situation.
Mustang Survivals’s are Macho
I am pleased that we at BoatTEST will now lead the way in encouraging the use of wearable life jackets by using Mustang Survival’s auto-inflating Type V system. (See 5-2 Newsletter in “archives”) It does not take away from my manliness. It will add some discomfort in the August and September months when it is just short of being as hot as the surface of the sun in South Florida. It will NOT save me from all forms of stupidity like riding the bow of a pocket cruiser with nothing to keep me on board but my ten fingers and sweaty palms. When you hit the water at speed with this jacket on, it will at least inflate and roll you over in most cases, making you easier to spot and rescue you, but you still will likely have a broken neck and likely, a lifeless body.
I haven’t in the past, and will not in the future have someone forward of the windshield underway for safety reasons. I don’t care about how much better the picture will be or how pretty the models are that they put on board. (BoatTEST.com does not use models. –ed.) Lives can be lost doing it, and lives can be saved by not doing it. Climb on board with me, and save lives. Don’t be caught taking pictures of your boat with you at the helm and someone up front!