Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One of the Dangers of Boating

A day of fishing turned deadly this past Friday. It was a clear, blue, sunny October day. Two men took their 16' aluminum boat out for a day of fishing in the water just outside of Shilshole Bay Marina. At 4pm, they were a mile or so from the breakwater when a 44' power boat collided with them. Their fishing boat capsized. Both men went into the frigid water.

One of them suffered a heart attack and could not be revived. The other man was pulled from the water and is recovering from his injuries.

I won't post the photos. Some of them can be distressing (no photos of the people - but the overturned boat being towed by the Coast Guard and the damage to the fishing boat are heartbreaking enough, especially knowing that the accident cost a man his life.) If, however, you want to understand what  kind of damage a collision like this can do, click here - this is KIRO 7's coverage - photos and video.

The investigation into what cased the collision is ongoing, so there's no point in trying to place blame. I wanted to mention this accident because when you're on the water, collisions and near collisions are far more common than you might think. Boaters have insane lists of rules for right of way. The link takes you to just one site dedicated to a summary of the rules, but allow me to boil this down.

Rule 1. Know the navigation rules and follow them.

But when that fails, see:
Rule 2. The safety of your vessel and everyone on it is your responsibility. Do whatever is necessary to avoid a collision so long as your action endangers no one else.

The School of Dad (where I learned to sail) put it this way: "You can hollar that you had right of way the entire time you're sinking."  Yes. Collisions happen. People die. In Washington State, a number of people die in boating accidents every year. Most of those accidents involve alcohol and drowning. Sometimes, it's collision and loss of boats and sometimes loss of life. There's a lot of water out there, but not so much that you can allow your attention to stray when you're at the helm.

If you're writing fiction, a collision, especially at night or in low visibility conditions (fog, rain, snow), is a perfectly valid disaster to have befall your characters. Have a look at current conditions and water temperature conditions for your region.There are places in Washington State and up into Canadian waters where the currents run so hard and fast that if someone goes in, the chances of survival are slim to none. Point of interest: Most of the water north of Washington state is warmer than it is at the Washington coast. Here's the NOAA guide for water temperature observations for most of the nation. Though, I'm linking you directly to the page for Seattle and surrounding waters. Click on the nav menu on the left to find other areas of the nation.

If you go out on the water for real, remember your life jackets, please. And remind everyone on board to help you keep watch for other vessels.


  1. OMG, so true! Drinking and boating accidents are so crazy common here, too, even with the lakes being ice half the time.

  2. That goes for paddleboarders too on the life jacket front.