On a sweltering August afternoon during the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Poker Run in Missouri last summer, I watched person after person do what I’ll call the “hot coal fire dance” as they walked from one rafted boat to the next to reach the docks at the first stop. In an effort to spare her feet as she scampered across the dark-hued deck of a large catamaran, one bikini-clad gal dropped to her knees. Bad idea, because now her knees were burning.
To save her knees, she flopped onto her backside with her hands behind her. Now her butt and hands were getting seared. Finally, someone threw her a towel. She sat there on the towel, crying for a minute or so, until see figured out how to fashion it into one big mono-slipper and shuffle to the docks.
OK, I have to admit I got a sadistic kick out of the little scene, and I felt entitled to the chuckle because the soles of my feet were blistered from a similar deck-to-deck journey to the docks. But it got me thinking about all the little things on a performance boat that can cause anything from discomfort to injury.
“The are plenty of things to look out for, and a lot of it goes back to what we talked about (read the story) in the inspection article on speedonthewater.com,” says Tres Martin, the owner and founder of the Tres Martin Performance Boat School. “For example, boats are often very slippery from being waxed. When it comes to falling into the water, I’ve seen a lot more people slip off the back of a freshly waxed boat, especially catamarans with sloped transoms, than fall off the deck. And the danger there is that they’re heading right into the propellers.”
On that subject, propellers don’t have to be spinning—or even in the water—to cause injury. Uncovered props can be a safety hazard even on dry land.
“I know through insurance companies we work with that people get hurt by propellers while they’re walking around their boats at their own homes, simply by not being aware and walking into them,” says Martin. “People have injured themselves on propellers walking around the stern areas of boats that are beached during get-togethers and fun runs. Again, it’s just a matter of being aware of what you’re doing and what your guests are doing.
“When my kids and I go swimming behind our boat, I make sure that they don’t try to climb up one drive or the other to get back in the boat,” he continues. “I make sure they climb between the drives using the ladder we installed and the tie bar. I don’t want them any closer to the props than they need to be.”
Deck hardware such as retractable cleats left in the raised position can lead to stubbed toes and even a quick trip to the water. That’s an obvious screw-up, but one that gets missed all the time. Here’s another: A passenger leaps from the dock to the reach bench, the rear bench bottom slips out and the passengers ends up on his back in the cockpit. It happens more than you think—it happened at Everglades Marina when Martin worked there and the incident ended up in litigation.
Most people know that there are plenty of big things, such as hot headers, in an engine compartment that can cause injury. But there are little ones, too.
“Hose clamps and tie wraps that haven’t been properly trimmed can eat you up if you reach in there, which is another reason to inspect your boat every time before you take it out,” says Martin. “As I said before, all of this really comes down to awareness.”