Keep It Seriously Safe

With National Safe Boating Week coming up next week (May 16-22), now is as good a time as any to remind people to be safe not just next week but every time you use your boat. Whether you're taking it out for an early evening run on the river alone, hosting a large group over a busy holiday weekend on the lake, or traveling to one or more of the dozens of poker runs coming up this summer, make arriving back to the dock or launch ramp safely your No. 1 priority.

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Wearing life jackets is one of the smartest things a boat crew can do for safety. Photo courtesy Florida Powerboat Club

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Tres Martin Schools Salmon

With the exception of serious Major League Baseball credentials, retired Angels right-fielder and power-hitting great Tim Salmon is like any other right-thinking and responsible performance-boat owner. Salmon, who owns a 32-foot Sleekcraft Heritage V-bottom with twin Mercury Racing 525 EFI engines as well as a houseboat and a wakeboard boat, wants to be as safe as possible behind the wheel.


Tim Salmon said he's all about safety on his boats. Photos courtesy Tres Martin/Tres Martin Performance Boat School (click images to enlarge).

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Bravo To Buffalo


Forget course coordinates and card stops and raft-up procedures. Important as those things are, they're really not what the drivers' meeting held before every poker run is about. You can even forget the part about drivers not touching a drop of alcohol until their boats are tied up at the dock at the end of the run, because though it absolutely has to be said those who don't get it already never will.

Here is the nut of any drivers' meeting before a poker run: It's the last chance for an organizer to remind—and beg and plead, if necessary—everyone behind the wheel to be careful out there. Because while you can break down "careful" into myriad actions, techniques and awareness levels, it simply means, "Use caution." And you could argue that every major accident that's happened since poker runs took to the water could have been avoided if the people involved had done just that.

To deliver exactly that message this year, the organizers of the annual Buffalo Poker Run in Western New York are bringing in someone who knows exactly what he's talking about.

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Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey'Sharkey Images.


Avoiding Nightmares After Dark


The events of July 4, 2014, off Coconut Grove, Fla., are by now as talked about as they are horrific. The short and tragic story is that at least three center console boats—none of the high-performance variety—were involved in a collision after an evening fireworks display. Four people died and several more were hospitalized with minor to serious injuries. By all accounts, and you can get the latest from the Miami-Herald by clicking here, the scene was confused and terrifying. First responders in the area deserve serious credit for keeping the death toll from rising even higher.

No one, least of all the surviving friends and families of the departed, needs a lecture or scolding right now. But the news of the tragedy reminded me of a great article by Brad Schoenwald in Sportboat, a short-lived magazine I edited in 2012 and 2013. A former member of the United States Coast Guard and current instructor of Tres Martin's Performance Boat School, Schoenwald wrote an article called "Operation Darkness" for his quarterly safety column in the magazine's winter 2012 issue.

Last Friday night, I recalled a portion of Schoenwald's article as if I'd just edited it that morning.

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Related Stories: Tres Martin's Safety Corner

Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images

Commentary: Play It Safe

As many of you read this, I will be embarking on a half-day drive to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., with Matt Trulio, my co-publisher at, for the annual Desert Storm Poker Run, one of the coolest events of the year in my book.

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While Lake Havasu brings to mind some fond memories—from boating on the lake as a teenager with my grandparents to testing boats as a 30-plus-year-old alongside Bob Teague and John Tomlinson for Powerboat magazine—it also reminds me of some melancholy incidents. While I was in high school, my friend's brother drowned after jumping off a cliff into the lake, and last year I reported on a couple of boaters who are lucky to be alive after a scary incident during the poker run (read the story).

Remembering last year's crash and the craziness surrounding the questions that inevitably arise—what boat flipped, who was in it, are they OK, and many more—isn't enjoyable, but it does make me want to write about being safe on the water. I know there are only so many things that can be said, such as wear life jackets, have a designated sober operator, maintain safe speeds for the conditions, etc., but it really comes down to using your head.

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