By Scott “Fraz” Murie
Safety—It’s not just a word, it’s an action. People in our profession sometimes get too comfortable in our routines and forget what could happen in a split second. It probably won’t, but what if it does? Offshore boating accidents can happen and unfortunately do happen.
If you’re a traveling boat, I think it’s necessary for two crew members to be on the bridge at all times when underway. You can keep an eye on one another that way. If there is only one guy on the bridge and he slips, bumps his head and falls overboard, who’s going to know? We’re all guilty, but that doesn’t make it right.
We lost a fellow fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico several years back. He was running at night and was on the bridge by himself. When a crew member came up on the bridge to relieve him, he was gone. The last time he had been seen by anyone was a few hours earlier.
Nobody will ever know for sure, but they think he left the bridge to use the head and fell overboard in a choppy sea. Not only was he gone, but the unmanned boat could have hit another boat and killed who knows how many people. If someone else was on the bridge that night, things might have happened differently.
In another instance in the Gulf of Mexico, the captain left the bridge at cruise speed with the helm unattended to do something with a fish in the cockpit. The boat plowed into a shrimp boat almost killing everyone on both boats. If the captain just would have used common sense and stopped his boat when he left the helm, he wouldn’t have risked everyone’s life. Common sense goes a long way when it comes to safety.
Entering and returning into rough inlets, day or night, with two people on the bridge can make all the difference in the world in preventing accidents. On long crossings, just the company of another person on the bridge can keep you more alert and awake—in foul weather it’s a no brainer. We all know this, many of us even talk about how important it is, but for the most part we just don’t do it.
Also stay out of the tower unless it’s absolutely necessary. With today’s super fast boats, offshore boating accidents seem to be more and more frequent. Thirty-five knots and five- to eight-foot seas can be pretty violent. Just hanging on is a chore! So, slow the heck down! You’re just tearing things up and greatly increasing the chances of something bad happening.
I seem to be venting a little about this, don’t I? We’ve all lost several buddies in ways I believe could have been preventable. So keep an eye on one another. Try to use some common sense and chances of a tragic accident will go way down. Make sure all your safety gear is up to date—lights, flares, fire systems, etc. After all, you never know when you might need them! Even with the warning to keep them up to date and in proper function, I hope you never need them!