By Jim Mathie
The sinking feeling hit me right after I fell overboard. My wife and I were returning from Bimini on my boat’s maiden voyage to the Bahamas and we were several miles off the Hillsboro Inlet. I was lowering the outriggers and made the mistake of not taking the engines out of gear. As I fell overboard and hit the water, I saw my boat driving away, my wife on board. She knew nothing about steering a boat, but luckily had enough sense to toss me the throw-ring and turn the boat into the wind to pick me up right away. (To this day, she says I should have renamed my boat Captain Overboard.)
It could have been worse; it could have been like when former Miami Dolphins fullback Ron Konrad fell off his boat a few years ago. He was alone and nine miles offshore. He swam for 16 hours and traveled some 27 miles before he finally came to shore in Palm Beach County.
While boating gives us the freedom of being “out there,” it’s also a huge responsibility for ourselves and our passengers. Almost every week in South Florida we read about someone run over by a boat, sinking a boat or suffering a tragic accident involving a boat.
With more than 300 miles of navigable waterways and 40,000 registered boats in Broward County alone, it’s no wonder boating is a very popular activity. For those of us involved though, we need to be safe.
The latest “Broward Safe Boating Guide,” provided by the Broward County Marine Advisory Council, is now available. Information for the guide was also provided by the United States Power Squadron as well as members of the Pompano Beach Power Squadron (pompanosafeboating.com). This handbook has information on boating laws and guidelines for safe operation. Most marine law enforcement officers have these available for boaters and you can read the guide online at broward.org/Parks/ThingsToDo/Pages/Boating.aspx.
If you are born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, and operate a motorized boat of 10 horsepower or more, you’re required to obtain a Florida boating safety education identification card and must possess photo Identification; however, even if you’re born before that date, it’s important to take a safe boating course. Consider the statistic that in 82 percent of fatal boating accidents, the Captain had no boater education.
There are numerous boating safety classes taught throughout the year by the United States Power Squadrons and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas. Information about these classes are listed in the Broward County Safe Boating Guide.
The first thing my wife and I did after our incident was sign up for the safe boating course at Pompano Power Squadron. I had already taken it, but sometimes getting your crew educated can make the difference in everyone arriving home safely. Y
Jim ‘Chiefy’ Mathie served 30 years with Deerfield Beach Fire Rescue retiring as a Division Fire Chief. He is the Editor-at-Large of the Deerfield Beach! magazine.