Put-in-Bay Boating Safety

More Put-in-Bay Boating Tragedy- Nearly every month over this boating season there has been a tragedy or near tragedy on Lake Erie. Sadly, each of them could have been avoided with proper education and Boating Safety practices. The latest Put-in-Bay boating accident occurred a couple of weeks ago near the Put-in-Bay lighthouse. There are conflicting details and the incident remains under investigation but here’s what I know. A male boater near the lighthouse spotted a fender in the water and dove in to retrieve it. He immediately experienced distress which resulted in his drowning. His wife had no functional knowledge of boating and as a result, drove the vessel on to the rocks.

ODNR took charge of the scene from the Put-in-Bay Police department. The Coast Guard sent in a helicopter and divers eventually retrieved the dead boater’s body. The version of events may vary, but what we know is that: 1) A man went overboard and drowned. 2) That the wife could not drive the boat properly. We may never know the exact circumstances of the man going overboard or if he should have, but in my experience, I am unaware of any object retrieval requiring a person to jump overboard! Based on my understanding of the event, it was (at
a minimum) an unusual decision by the skipper. That followed by the only other person on board being incapable of driving the vessel or using the radio (if it was so equipped) and poor Boating Safety.

Teachable Moment-Many of us have a far too casual attitude about boating on Lake Erie and are ill-prepared to handle an emergency situation. That’s a fact! In my opinion, it stems from an under-appreciation of what the Great Lakes are and are not. For all intents and purposes, what they are are seas. What they are not are lakes. Think not? The extremely well-seasoned crew of the mammoth 728-foot-long SS Edmund Fitzgerald which was snapped in half like a pretzel on Lake Superior might beg to differ!

The point that I am trying to make is this. Boating anywhere on the Great Lakes and especially around our islands can be great fun but trouble can happen in an instant and your maritime skills need to be up to snuff as well as your ability to make quick effective decisions.
The skill required to demonstrate Boating Safety cannot and will not happen in a vacuum…ever! It is a combination of knowledge and experience. The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary can’t help you with the experience (unless you were to join us) but we can help you with the knowledge.

Knowledge Is For Everyone- The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers two primary courses. A safe boating class which is suitable for everyone whether your the skipper or a passenger. And a course titled “Suddenly In Command” designed for individuals who are not the primary driver of the boat but who may suddenly need to take over command and control of the vessel if the captain should become incapacitated. This is often the spouse or partner of the vessel’s captain. If you are a boater I strongly urge you to look into both of these courses. For more information call the USCG-AUX at 419-379-9000. For a free Vessel Safety Check call 419-379-9000. For information about serving in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Contact the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary at 419-379-9000. Paul Bolden is the commander of Flotilla 091-16-12 at Coast Guard Station Marblehead and is a seasonal resident of Put-in-Bay.