By CAPT. MEL BERMAN, 970-WFLA
Did ya ever wish you could be a plain-clothes FWC officer and hand out tickets to other boaters who suffer from terminal cases of the “stupids?” It’s really amazing that we don’t have more serious accidents, drownings and altercations on Florida waters.
Does anybody take the time to at least partially learn the official Coast Guard Boater’s Rules of the Road? Seeing the breathtaking antics of some of our fellow fishing and boating enthusiasts, I have forsworn any weekend on-water excursions. It’s too nerve-wracking.
For example, on a fine fall day off Tarpon Springs, I saw a father “entertaining” his two very young children. He had them perched on the bow of his boat, little legs dangling, doing a series of sharp figure-eights with his powerboat. The kids, not wearing life jackets (as required by law,) were perilously hanging on to a slippery bow rail. Had either of these children lost their grip, I shudder to think of the gruesome result.
Then there are frequently those who play a game of “chicken.” How many times have you run your vessel at say 35-mph, only to spot another boat coming at you from the starboard on a collision course.
Then there are really ignorant power boaters who think they’re in compliance with the no-wake regs when they slow their vessels down just enough to put out the biggest wake possible. You can see them on any of our major waterways, sitting smugly behind their helm with a look of satisfaction, yet totally oblivious to the massive 4-foot wake that they are putting out.
How about the boater that runs right up on a shoal, jamming his boat into the bottom. Then, instead of getting out and walking the vessel out, this uncaring lout drops the engine’s outdrive and, as the late Canoeman always said, “augers” his way out of the predicament. In doing so he grinds a path through the delicate grasses and destroys the very environment that he professes to cherish.
How about the “you don’t own the water crowd?” Fishing just off one of the Suncoast ramps, my wife Ginny and I were impressed with how many of the boaters were considerate enough to head out behind where we were fishing. Then there was that one boorish individual, who launched at the ramp and continued on right through our fishing lines.
“Hey,” I shouted, “didn’t you notice that we’re fishing here. You rode over our lines!”
His retort was the old “half a ‘V’ for victory sign” and an obscenity laced comeback that included the phrase, “you don’t own the (“Chaney word”) water!”
Come on guys! We’re all out to have a good time! Why make life miserable for each other? Don’t be a “boating nerd.” Let’s be considerate and helpful to each other. We all share the same passion – fishing and boating.
As that old sage Rodney King once aptly observed, “Can’t we all get along?”