Boarding an airliner assures that we will get a safety briefing before we take to the air. Further, so as not to miss anything, the flight attendant either reads the briefing or has it memorized. Now it usually is a recording, guaranteeing that no part of the briefing is left out.
Airlines do this for a reason. They want us to know what to do in an emergency and to prevent us from taking action that will harm ourselves or other passengers.
Now let's look at boating.
Most briefings that I have heard sound something like this: "Watch your step and put the cooler over there." There is a better way to assure our passengers a safe and comfortable ride.
Here is what my wife, Jane, and I do each time we have passengers aboard. We have perfected the procedure during 15 years of boating, of which eight were live-aboard years.
We call for a safety meeting before engine start.
Here are the items we cover:
Give each passenger a life jacket. Instruct them to put it on and adjust it to fit. Then, have them place the jacket somewhere on the boat where they can get to it quickly. If someone can't swim, suggest they wear the jacket all the time. Minors aboard legally required to wear a jacket must wear one all the time.
Show where the fire extinguishers are and how to operate them.
If there are "don't do" items, tell passengers about them up front. Ours is "no smoking."
Choose a couple of passengers (or crew) to be lookouts and to report to the captain anything they see that looks like a danger to us. (Change this assignment frequently as it can become tedious.)
Show them around the boat. If there is a "head," show them how it works.
Tell them that before the captain adds power he or she will say, "power coming up." Likewise, when power is reduced, the announcement will be "power coming back." On hearing either announcement, everyone aboard should grab some part of the boat that will increase their stability. This prevents many spills and man-overboard (MOB) situations.
Provide instructions on what to do if they witness a MOB. They should immediately shout "man overboard" and point to the MOB, never losing sight of the MOB. If possible, a life-saving cushion should be thrown to the MOB.
If there are many passengers, and particularly if they are children, the old "buddy" system works great. Each person has a buddy and keeps track of that buddy.
Tell the passengers that there are no dumb questions, so speak up if anything bothers them.
This pre-departure safety briefing takes about five minutes, if you're wordy.
Fiddle with this briefing so it makes sense for you, your boat and your crew. Then type up a checklist and use it. Your passengers will not think you're corny. They will think, "Here is a captain who is thoughtful and attentive to our concerns, and I feel good about having him or her in command."
For more tips on being a host of boating activities, plan to attend the next boating safety class conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary/Army Corps of Engineers. It will be held at the Thurmond Dam & Lake Visitor's Center June 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
John L. VanOsdol is commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, CSRA Flotilla. He can be reached at (864) 391-2170, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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