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Boating Safety Tip

By Jim Liddell

We are all getting older these days. Some of us are having memory or eye problems and are not as sharp as we used to be. If a non-boater is invited by the captain of the boat to go fishing with him, it should be a great time for all – and hopefully everyone will catch lots of fish. However, for my boat, I am going to implement some new responsibilities for the passenger/guest.

  1. Make certain the plug is in the boat before we launch. Even though the captain may have said “Yes”, it’s a good idea for the passenger to double check just to make certain that the plug is in. I was asked this question recently and said the plug was in, so we launched the boat. NO IT WASN’T!!! As we were about to shove off we noticed water coming in to the boat. We had to quickly get the trailer, take the boat out of the water, wait for the water to drain out, and then insert the plug. Valuable fishing minutes were lost.

  2. Do you have your life jacket on? This is the captain’s responsibility. If a passenger does not have his own, the captain should arrange to have one for him/her. Mine was left in our motor home from Boardman’s fall campout.

  3. The passenger should not be working with his tackle or gear while the boat is under way. His job is to keep a sharp lookout for canoes, kayaks, and floating junk in the water, as well as other boats that may be in our path.

All of this actually happened to me (except for the kayaks and canoes) on my last outing back in October, and it could have taken our lives or badly injured us. It would have made the local news for sure!

Let me explain:

It was time to call it a day – with no catches or hits. My boat was up on plane heading back to the boat launch. We were in a stretch of the Willamette that gets narrower going past Hog Island. Visibility was poor, but I could still see a large white fiberglass boat, also up on plane, coming down river about 100 yards out. Somehow, I lost sight of the boat heading towards us until it was almost on top of us. I immediately yanked the steering wheel hard to the right as the other pilot did the same to his boat. We were like a couple of fighter jets in the sky peeling off and away from each other to avoid a head-on collision. Whew, that was a very close call.

Now as I look back and try to understand why I lost contact with that other boat, I have learned that my left eye had developed a blind spot just off center that made that boat disappear from my sight. Then, as the boat was coming closer, it turned slightly and came out of my blind spot. In passing, that boat’s bow was completely visible. I also noticed that that pilot was not paying attention, but was adjusting his red canopy.

All I remember seeing was a big white bow and red deck with water splashing off both sides. It was only 10 or maybe 20 feet MAX in front of us. OH MY GOD! No time to think—just react—or we were going to die! I made a hard right turn. Maybe if we got lucky, we would miss him, or not get too badly hurt. Making that turn saved our lives! But then we also had to turn left to keep us going up stream and away from Hog Island and the large rock wall along its shore.

So now, I am warning all of you to keep a sharp lookout and be aware of your surroundings. Things can change in an instant just like in a car. We were very, very lucky that day. All I can say is: I sure am glad my guardian angel knows how to get us out of danger in a hurry.

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