Avoiding Nightmares After Dark

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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 speedonthewater.com, 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.

Read more: Play It Safe

Go-Fast Boat Safety: Six Tips

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Free time is precious, which means that you need to enjoy every moment of it when you hit the water in your high-performance powerboat. But maximizing fun doesn't mean compromising safety. Nothing will stop the fun faster than an accident, even a minor one. Awareness and caution are the keys to safe driving. (Psst, if you're a passenger, you might want to read Safety Essentials for Go-Fast Boat Passengers.)

To that end we talked to renowned performance-boat driving instructor Tres Martin, who founded the nation's leading go-fast boat driving school that bears his name, and asked him for practical, everyday tips that can make you and your passengers safer on the water. Here's what he had to say.

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(Above photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.)

 

Jones Emphasizing Safety Rule Compliance for Upcoming Key West Poker Run

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With the Florida Powerboat Club's annual Key West Poker Run looming in early November, Stu Jones, the founder and owner of the club, said he will be pushing harder than ever for complete compliance on all rules for all participants. That includes enforcing the mandatory attendance/roll-call for all drivers the evening before each departure. Though most of the fleet, which likely will be between 150 and 160 boats this year, heads from Miami to Key West on Thursday, there are organized Wednesday and Friday departures as well.

"With longtime club members who had done four of five of my runs in one year we have in the past not been harsh or strict if the member couldn't make what is essentially the same meeting every time," said Jones. "But we really need everybody to be there. It's important, and we can't let it go."

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Florida Powerboat Club Launches Safety Initiative

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During a meeting at the Miami International Boat Show on Friday, Feb. 15, Stu Jones announced the Florida Powerboat Club’s new Strategic Safety Management Initiative for all of its poker runs in 2013. On hand for the meeting were representatives from the United States Coast Guard, the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Marine Operations Unit, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local law enforcement agencies.

From life vests to speed, Florida Powerboat Club President Stu Jones discussed safety concerns at the Miami International Boat Show.From life vests to speed, Florida Powerboat Club President Stu Jones discussed safety concerns at the Miami International Boat Show.Also in attendance were well-known figures from the high-performance powerboat community including Desert Storm Poker Run organizer Jim Nichols, John Cosker of Mystic Powerboats, Marc Granet of Miss GEICO racing, Devin Wozencraft of Wozencraft Marine Insurance, Bob Teague of Teague Custom Marine, the title sponsor for the Desert Storm event, and several prominent members of the club.

The new FPC safety management initiative includes additional safety boats, a helicopter with rescue divers and greater enforcement of existing club safety rules and guidelines. Basic additions to the existing format, according to a document from the organization, include the classification of three “speed groups” (Sportboat 45-59 mph, Performance 60-99 mph and High-Performance 100-150 mph). Each group will be color-coded with hull side decals. Launches for each group will continue to be staggered. There will be no “paceboat” for boats in the High-Performance class.

While the overall goal of increased safety for participants in the club's poker runs, as well overall safety on the courses during events, through the initiative was embraced by everyone in attendance, the planned implementation of the guidelines produced more than a little disagreement between Jones and a few members of the club. There were two primary sticking points. The first was Jones’ funding proposal for the initiative in which members with boats that fall into the High-Performance class would pay an additional $250 per event, members with boats that fall into the Performance class would pay an additional $150 per event and members with boats that fall into the Sportboat class would pay no additional fee.

In addition, Jones said he will be asking members with boats in the High-Performance class to name the FPC as an additionally insured party on their individual policies for club events in which they participate.

“Some of the carriers will do it and some won’t,” said Jones. “But we want you to request it.”

“You are putting a fee on me because I have a bigger, faster boat,” said Kenny Armstrong, a club member who owns Phantom, a 48-foot Marine Technology, Inc., catamaran. “I think you need to look at how you assess the fee. You’re insurance is useless to me."

Another member said, “A lot of the members in the smaller boats come to see the bigger boats. Give them a little fee and you’ll probably make a lot of people happy.”

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