It can be lots of fun to have guests
on the water, but spending a few minutes showing them
some things can make your trip a lot safer and more
enjoyable. We’ve all seen the guests that jump
off ladders and trip or spring onto the dock at the
first opportunity. A few minutes showing the guests
around can make the day on the water much more fun
and relaxing, and may prevent injury or them driving
you crazy. Following are a just a few sample questions
to consider as you prepare for another season on the
- Are you prepared for emergencies
on the water?
- Are your guests prepared for emergencies
on the water?
- Can your passengers handle an emergency
if you are injured?
- Do your guests know not to bug
you when docking?
- Do your guests know how to use
the lav without breaking things?
Like the briefings you get on the
airlines, the information ranges from safety-related
to nice-to-know. From the safety point of view, take
the time to show them the location of vests, throwable
PFDs and fire extinguishers. Also take a minute to
describe how you will react if somebody falls overboard
(I like the panic buttons on the bigger ships). If
there are kids, I let them know why life vests are
required, and that they could save their lives if they
fell overboard. Some 95% of boat-related drownings,
in fact, started with somebody without a vest falling
As for an emergency, consider for
a moment what would happen on the boat if you, the
skipper, where injured or incapacitated. Would your
spouse, children, or friends know what to do? My spouse,
for example, knows that the cell phone may or may not
work on the river. We have a card on the bridge listing
several emergency phone numbers. On the water, however,
a call to the USCG on the VHF should be first on your
list for rapid assistance.
On the "Emergency Card," I
have included suggestions for how to contact the Coast
Guard, and I make sure that somebody besides me knows
how to make the call. The CG will request your position
by mile-marker, so a map and some local knowledge comes
in handy. If I have somebody sitting by the helm, I
casually point out where we are as we are cruising
around. This would be helpful should somebody ever
need that knowledge.
Last summer, I heard a communication
that was interesting. A boat called the Coast Guard
on Ch. 16 to report that they were drifting and couldn’t
start their engine. They wanted to give their Lat/Longs,
but the Coast Guard requested their position by mile
marker. Unable to answer, the captain called back with
his location in reference to 12-mile island. The radio
operator still wanted the position in terms of mile
marker. While this may have been going a little too
far to make a point, it was pretty obvious that the
Coast Guard wanted the exact position by reference
to the mile marker on the charts.
The next thing they will want to know
is the nature of the emergency and if everybody is
safe. Can your vessel move under it’s own power?
Is it at anchor or adrift?
Lastly, what about the nice to know
stuff for your briefings? I take the time to show the
guests around and let them see where things are. For
kids, I show them where they can go, and what they
can and cannot touch. I make sure that kids know to
stay in one place once we are underway. I take it a
step further and let the children know that for safety
they need to listen to the captain, even if they are
misbehaving and ignoring their parents. I always include
the dungeon and the plank for humor! Of course, you
could choose to be a curmudgeon and avoid the whole
kid thing altogether.
I let people know that docking requires
some concentration, sometimes much more than others.
I ask that they don’t ask questions while we’re
maneuvering, and that they stay seated until we come
to a stop. There are always people who want to help,
which is great if they know what they’re doing.
To that end, I make sure that the adults and kids know
what is expected of them upon arrival. For example, “you
kids stay in the cabin until we’ve docked, Jim,
you’ll be a big help on the bow..., and the rest
of you don’t need to do anything other than stay
where you are so I can get around you.”
After I show everybody around, I pick
somebody responsible and demo a few extra things on
the bridge. For example, I show them where I keep the
charts and the "Emergency Card." I show them
how to dial in 16 on the radio, and where the mic is
located. Following is a modified version of the card
I keep on my bridge:
If you find the card useful, feel
free to modify it for your own personal use. Above
all, be safe, and have a great time!
Credits: Doug Ales of Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
original distress call text on briefing card.
Founder, Port KY
Eric grew up around boats, trading summers on board his parents' Sea Rays for many man-hours of swabbing the decks. He grew up by the little town of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, overlooking the the Dashields Locks and Dam. He has traveled the Great Lakes, Lake Huron's North Channel, Gulf of Mexico and several rivers to include the Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, Mohawk (Erie Canal), Tennessee, Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Mobile Rivers.
As a commercial pilot, Eric flies jets and is a flight instructor. He has owned recreational boats ranging from PWCs to most recently, a flybridge convertible that he keeps in a Louisville marina (MM 590). You can also find him with his family on the "Escape Pod," an 18' fishing boat. His most memorable journey was aboard the J. S. Lewis, a 155' towboat in service since 1931.
Eric is a USCG Licensed Master with a Commerical Tow Assistance rating, and is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Riverman and the Louisville Sail and Power Squadron. After moving to Louisville, he conceived the idea for Louisville's Port KY website while searching for information to help him become a safer and more knowledgable local boater. He has worked hard over the years to educate other boaters by promoting safety classes through Port KY and by hosting captain's classes and related events.