Powerboating is exhilarating, exciting and sensational. Used for leisure and professional purposes, enabling people to take to the water in increasingly powerful and sophisticated craft. Be it a family enjoying a day out or yacht crew operating tenders to service yachts or pull their guests on the various water sports toys on board. However, like any machine, these craft need to be used in a safe manner, in the hands of competent people.
I spend a lot of time on the water; when I’m not teaching boating, I’m on my liveaboard yacht. Over the years I have seen it all. What concerns me is the number of people driving boats who are either reckless or perhaps unaware of the risks and of their limitations. It’s one thing when we see incidents occur with leisure boaters but, arguably, it cannot be excused when its professional crew involved.
Of course, mistakes do happen; a lapse in concentration or a slip of the hand resulting in an impact, slight or serious. A lack of awareness, or lack of training, can be fatal. Throughout the season here in Mallorca, I’ve noticed it to be very common for powerboats and jet skis to speed though anchorages. Not only is this unpleasant for the yachts on anchor, but it could easily lead to serious incidents happening. When travelling at planing speed, one simply doesn’t have time to react to a swimmer surfacing or indeed to allow enough time to spot them at all. The first thing you may realise is when your propeller strikes somebody.
“Rule 5 – Look-Out of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLRegs) states that every vessel shall, at all times, maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and or the risk of collision.”
“Rule 6 – Safe Speed states that every vessel shall at all times travel at a safe speed so that it can take action to avoid a collision and be stopped with a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.”
Over the past two years in the Balearics alone, I am aware of three incidents of people in the water being run over by speeding boats while swimming off the back of yachts. The result being serious injury, including the loss of limbs and death. These situations could have been avoided had proper care and consideration been taken.
Overall, I would say that yacht crew do lead by example and use their tenders and PWs (personal watercraft) in a safe way. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. This article is not intended to make a dig at crew, but as a reminder that as professionals we are always on show and represent not only ourselves but the yacht owners, captain and crew mates. Not only are lives put in danger when people allow themselves to behave inappropriately but it has a knock on effect, causing regulations to be tightened and more stringent controls imposed on boating.
So, as this season comes to an end and the Caribbean season approaches, please take a moment to reflect. When out on the water practically, in any scenario, keep in mind a ‘worst case’ scenario way of thinking. Keep each other safe and be mindful of other water users. If traveling at night, take extra care; reduce speed, make a pilotage plan and keep an extra sharp lookout to avoid hazards. Wearing the kill cord is a must, in fact consider the idea of not wearing it as ridiculous as not wearing a seat belt.
Boating is fun, when done in a safe way. We work in a spectacular industry, so let’s keep it professional and set a high standard.