What does it mean to captain a vessel? To some it’s a sunny, leisure day at the helm cruising the waterways with family and friends. To others, it’s working as a merchant mariner such as a commercial harvester, fishing guide or tug boat operator, just to name a few. But to most, it’s some form of recreation.
Regardless of your purpose on the water, when you are captain of a vessel, like it or not, you are responsible for everything that happens with that ship in the course of its voyage. This concept seems to be of little significance to some.
Anyone who’s spent much time on the water has an experience that’s left them angered, confused, dumbfounded or all of the above. There’s not much we responsible captains can do to prevent buffoonery around us other than to set the right example and educate others when presented with the opportunity.
For example, if someone cuts you off when you have the right-away, your first instinct might be to retaliate in some way, but trust me, that never ends well. If given the chance, maybe you can educate that captain; maybe he didn’t know the rules of the road in that scenario. They may just be uneducated jerks and not be interested in what you have to say, but they may genuinely be unaware.
Most importantly is to be keenly aware of your surroundings. According to the FWC, the leading cause of boat accidents is inattention or failure to maintain a proper lookout. Slow down when needed and utilize safety equipment and common sense.
In a recent FWC report, I read about an accident where a family of four capsized a small 14’ boat while trying to cross Pensacola Bay in extremely rough water. The two adults had their 4 year and nine month old children with them. All were rescued and survived, but the baby required CPR and hospitalization. This could have been incredibly tragic but it highlights the importance of common sense and an appreciation of just how serious the charge of a “captain” really is.
Don’t take the responsibility lightly. Old salts don’t get that way being stupid. Enjoy your boat time and set the example. To all you captains that do right…Thank You!
~ Capt. Randy Cnota