Water safety plea to new boaters
Inexperience coupled with an unprecedented number of boats expected in the run-up and during the America's Cup is a “recipe for disaster”, according to Ralph Richardson.
The chairman of the Bermuda Water Safety Council is urging new boaters to learn about the “rules of the road” and common courtesy to ensure the safety of everyone on the water.
“We've been made aware that there have literally been hundreds of new boaters that are purchasing boats or have purchased boats and have licensed them to their names and they have never ever had any experience in boats before,” Mr Richardson told The Royal Gazette. “They're not all new boats. They'll be buying second-hand boats because they're excited — they want to be able to get out to the America's Cup racecourse themselves without having to go with other boats.”
He added that, in addition to local boats, more than 300 regular size yachts and between 80 and 100 superyachts, some of which have three or four tenders, are expected for the event.
“It'll be something we've never ever seen in our history. If you add to that a mix of people who have never operated boats before, you have a recipe for disaster.”
Mr Richardson said it was therefore key that new boaters learn the rules for navigating on water, which he stressed “are totally different” from those on the road.
“It's quite complex,” he said. “There's a proper way to anchor boats, to handle boats, to steer them — to do all of those things”.
“A boat can be a lethal weapon if it's not handled properly, so we want all those new boaters to learn to do it safely.”
Drawing on the example of anchoring, Mr Richardson said if this was not done correctly boats “could drift into other boats and cause harm or danger to other people”.
“An anchor rope that you put out to hold your boat in place, should be three times the depth.”
And with the channel depth ranging between 25ft and 40ft, he said boats should have at least 120ft of line out.
A shorter line won't hold if the wind picks up because an anchor has to be at an angle to work, Mr Richardson explained.
“All anchors have a little hook on it that pivots down — as your boat pulls, it forces it to go deeper into the sand.
“It's something that the general person who has never operated a boat before will not know.”
He stressed it was also important for boaters to know how to give an emergency call.
But he added that there was no manual “unless you go out and get one and we wanted people to know that there are resources”.
Mr Richardson, who taught marine piloting, boat handling, safety and navigation at the Warwick Community School for 27 years, wrote The Bermuda Boater book specifically as a resource for Bermuda waters.
“There is another book — it's called Chapman's piloting and seamanship. It's a very thick book. It's really meant for American waters but I used it when I was learning because there were no local resources. If a person wants to go a little bit deeper into being able to handle boats, it's not a local resource but it's an incredible resource — it's like the boatman's bible.”
Mr Richardson also reiterated the need for anyone out on the water to take care in the Great Sound in the presence of the America's Cup boats.
“We want to alert people that these boats are extremely limited in their manoeuvrability. These are sail boats that do things no other sail boat has done before.
“If it looks like they are heading towards you, they are asking that the boat keeps its course and speed,” he said, adding that the same applies to those in kayaks or on paddle boards.
“They are trained and they can make their way around it. But if a person stops just in front of them and they are not planning for it, that can be dangerous.”
But he also stressed the need to watch out for the boats that are chasing the America's Cup boats. The Bermuda Water Safety Council is an advisory board that works with the Department of Marine and Ports to promote water safety on land and at sea.
• For more information and water safety tips, visit the Bermuda Water Safety Council Facebook page www.facebook.com/Bermudawatersafety