Boating Fun, Boating Safety

As a child I spent many spring and summer days on my dad’s bass boat. These memories are cherished for a variety of reasons, but embedded in these memories of fun, fishing, and the endless joys of summers on lakes or ocean shore lines I remember that my dad consistently stressed safety. Safety was a main concern for him, us, and our passengers, and our adherence to safety guidelines is what enabled us to continue many years of boating fun. But the way my dad taught my brother and me safety and boat upkeep made the tasks seem interesting and lighthearted. The ways that we learned and implemented safety into our boating routine made it seem fun, useful, and almost whimsical to our child’s minds.

First, and foremost, we had to always check the boat for leaks and cracks. This was done before we left the house, and after we arrived at the boating dock. On the first inspection, in our driveway the day before, we walked along the outer edges of the boat, running our hands along its sides (slowly and gently), to check for any cracks, abrasions, or other oddities on the boats surface. My brother and I used to try and make a game our crack searching. We hummed songs, tried to see who could find the most abrasions, and sometimes our dad would offer us money for finding and sealing cracks on the boat. Essentially, our dad taught us safety while letting us explore and have fun. When cracks were found (and only rarely) we immediately stopped our overall boat inspection to examine the imperfection noticed. Usually these minor imperfections were just that-minor cracks on the boats surface that would eventually accumulate to create a rustic look to our well used boat. But, when we found cracks longer than an inch in length, and wide enough to fit a finger nail or toothpick into, we immediately patched them. The patching was always done with a fiberglass mixture that can be bought at any sporting goods and boat store. We would put on rubber gloves, protective eye gear, and only handle the toxic and foul smelling mixture in small doses. Additionally, when we handled the fiberglass repair solution we had on long pants, and the gloves covered our arms to our elbows.

These extra safety precautions might seem superfluous to the onlooker, but they were much needed at the time. More than once, we spilled fiberglass goo on ourselves, but our protective coverings prevented us from having to use chemicals to remove it from our skin (or better yet, we were saved from trips to the emergency room for chemical abrasions). After covering cracks with protective sealant, they were allowed to dry and then sanded and painted. Then, after we checked the sides of the boat we would crawl underneath the boat to check for any irregularities in its surface and structure. As before, if cracks or abrasions were found on the underside of the boat we would immediately repair them.

After checking the outside, and underside, of the boat we would climb in and check the boat’s interior. The same techniques and principles were applied to our inspection of the boat. Additionally, we checked the seats and benches to make sure that they were secure, in place, and aptly working-i.e. that their hinges were oiled, seat straps in place, and that the cushions weren’t too terribly torn. Then, after this process was completed we loaded the boat. Loading the boat consisted of us checking our fishing gear for lines, hooks, and sinkers, placing the poles in their holders and tie-downs. Aside from the seemingly endless check routine for boat safety, we also made sure that we loaded the coolers with our favorite soft drinks, sandwiches, and other goodies. These things were often considered the prime goal of the safety inspection of the boat-especially since my brother and I continually joked that our dad would not be “safe” with use unless we had our stash of food and drinks.

Once we docked at the shore line, another quick surface inspection would be done on the boat. By this point, it was pretty redundant, but our dad had his reasoning. Those were merely for the fact of teaching of boat safety and care, and he wanted us to have a vested interest in the boats longevity and use. The more we worked on it, the more we labored over it, the more we wanted the boat to stay afloat. Accordingly, all of us took diligent care of our boats, used them frequently, and regularly checked them for safety violations. And of course, we wore life jackets and steered clear of large debris in the water-even if we did use the back of the boat as a diving board from time to time.

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