I sat down with a good friend of mine the other day and we got to chatting about great trips and crazy experiences we have had over the years on the water. He reminded me of the time he got very lucky after being, well, dumb and how we can all learn from his mistake.
Before we leave the dock, we seem to do a good job of checking our gear and making sure our tackle boxes are full. Is the drag set to the proper tension on our reels and are our rod tips in good shape? Do we have enough bait and ice in the fish box for everything we are going to catch that day? Did you grab the sunscreen and, most importantly, are the beverages we are going to enjoy on our ride home onboard? We seem to do a great job in all these areas but, all too often, we leave the most important ones off the list. Is the VHF working properly? Did we give someone a float plan and do we have a basic first aid kit onboard? Most importantly, and the one that seems to be overlooked all too often, do our bilge pumps work properly?
Forrest Gump was spot on—”s..t happens”. And when it does, it seems to always happen fast when you are on the water. Your boat is built to float but, in order to keep your boat floating and at its happiest, it needs your help. Before every trip, take the time to flip on your bilge pumps and make sure they are working. Check that they are free of any debris that may clog them. Every boat should have a float switch or high-water alarm to let you know if water is coming in before it’s too late. Put a few extra fuses for both in a watertight container (Ziploc storage bags work great) and leave them in a safe place, just in case. Grab a flashlight and shine it on your hoses and hose clamps to make sure everything looks good. This takes only a few minutes at most but, in the event of an emergency, it is worth all the time in the world.
Spending more time on the water than on land and dedicating one VHF channel to 16, I hear all too often boats in trouble, taking on water and their pumps not working properly. In the case of my good friend, they didn’t plan on hitting a submerged tree while underway that cracked their hull (remember the words of Forrest Gump?). Their pump was not working before they left the dock. A wire had just pulled out of its connection and they chose not to address it before leaving that day. Luckily, all ended well for my friend that day. What we can do is learn from others’ mistakes and take those brief moments to make sure, if something does happen, you and your boat are ready for it.