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Steve Johnson's Boating Safety

The Demolition Derby


Some of you may have had the opportunity of attending one of these vehicle sporting events in the past. Older model, heavy, very elaborately dented and decorated cars hurl around a dirt covered arena, sometimes at high speeds. The ultimate goal: wreck as many opponents as possible and be the last car driving. The defined area for this spectacle has no lane dividing lines, directional signs, lights, or smooth pavement to guide the way. The result is a noisy, action packed experience for both spectator and driver.
 
Does this description sound somewhat familiar on the Lake Lanier during peak, crowded times? After just a few hours the surface of the water becomes much rougher with wake and wave. Vessel traffic increases with each one traveling a different direction and speed, adding to the risk of collision or grounding. These are the times when being on the water feels like the Demolition Derby.
 
There is a remedy to this unwanted situation and it delivers outstanding benefits to everyone involved and to general boating safety especially. It is as simple as information! While there are numerous methods and organizations where you can get boat training, nothing compares to the professional delivery by a skilled maritime instructor, resulting in awareness, positive change, and increased safety.

That can be achieved by attending training sessions with other like-minded boaters. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and America’s Boating Club (formerly the Atlanta Sail & Power Squadron) have some of the best training syllabus and instructors around. 
 
Please contact me to discover more about all the different options for this type of education. Learning as a group, coupled with innovative media and techniques, provides the foundation of understanding needed to function as a vessel pilot in challenging conditions. Please note that safe operation of your vessel is a requirement, not an option. Actual on the water experience is the best teacher with the conventional or online environment primarily serving as introduction to the necessary skills of vessel control and navigation. You have to start somewhere in the learning process, and initial training is the best method to accomplish it.
 
I have often compared boating to some aspects of driving a vehicle on the roadways, as the dynamics are similar. Maritime safety knowledge, with correct application, is necessary for everyone’s protection. You can see the results of transportation incidents on the news all the time. Regardless if you are driving a vehicle or a vessel, the main objective is to travel to your intended destination without hitting something or hurting someone.  
 
Learning is a continuous journey of discovery. Why not find out how to expand your boating knowledge and reap the numerous benefits by avoiding – The Demolition Derby.
 


Steve Johnson, US Coast Guard (ret). is with CPO Johnson, Inc. More info: Steve@CPOJohnson.comwww.cpojohnson.com.






March 2020 column

 

Be prepared for what happens next

Boating safety is a broad topic provided by various agencies, governments, manufacturers, and schools or training institutions that serve as instruction. Breaking it down to the core or definition of what boating safety is really all about would be ... knowing what happens next out on the water.
 
Let me relate this to something you are probably already good at: driving on a roadway. When the vehicle is moving you instinctively know what the outcome of your actions will be – at least most of the time. That especially is true with stopping safely, avoiding collisions, and other adverse situations you routinely see. By applying this knowledge you prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
 
Now back to operating a watercraft, regardless of type, size, and location. The proficiency of safely driving or piloting a vessel is to know what to expect as the result of your actions as operator. This would also include environmental and other factors that can effect maneuvering and other components of boating. There are ramifications for everything we do. The secret is to use that same knowledge to predict, with accuracy, the outcome. Having that sense of awareness through effective training creates better response, resulting in increased safety. Nothing replaces actual experience or great virtual simulation and there is an alternative to keep proficient in this realm, even if you have taken courses in the past. Taking a boating safety class, especially if you are a seasonal boater, may be benefical. It can refresh your know-how in marine related areas.
 
The need for safety, security, survival credentials and license renewal is mandated by the USCG and International Maritime Organization every five years for commercial mariners. The requirement doesn’t affect private boaters without a license or other certifications. Through many years of research and experience, the worldwide maritime industry realized the need for renewal of this knowledge base was very apparent and therefore made into law. 
 
The season is rapidly approaching so it’s time to begin preparing for an enjoyable and memorable time on the water. Consider adding some form of training to your experience and reap the numerous benefits boating safety has to offer. Contact me to learn more of how to develop these skills and be able to precisely answer: What Happens Next?
 


February 2020 column

Keep these cold water boating tips

On many advanced marine electronics systems there is a button normally labeled MOB, specifically designed to give the exact position of someone that has fallen into the water so the boat operator can make a speedy recovery, especially in cold water conditions.  Hypothermia is dangerous and threatens survival. Required by maritime rules, commercial licensed and military mariners practice this scenario in any weather or sea condition. There are three different maneuvers or “turns” to accomplish that objective.
 
For those of you that have taken boating and license courses the “Williamson Turn” is introduced as a maneuver to return to the exact place where the person and retrace the path of the vessel on reciprocal course.Its chief advantage is to return to that position accurately in any condition of visibility or sea state.



 
 
 














In calmer waters, especially the lake, making a round turn or “Anderson Turn” would enable you to return to the position quicker.  The advantage of this recovery method is a reduction in time to position. As a boat operator you should always employ situational awareness and if this event occurs you would immediately know safe turning areas to get you there.  Approaching from this method would also allow you to maneuver up-wind to the person, which is the best and safest way to recover. 
 
 













A sometimes even quicker maneuver to return to the MOB position is to execute a “Scharnow Turn.”As you will see from the website graphic it is a quick turn of 240 degrees and also absolutely requires having the person in the water in sight at all times. During the turn there is sometimes the tendency to lose geographical orientation. The datum mark on the GPS chart will help guide if you are equipped but visual contact is even more important and crucial to quick rescue.
 
 













These three turns are just a few examples of the process to assist in MOB. More importantly, you have a plan and practice it enough for it to become second nature.  Think about taking a boating safety class this year from the USCG Auxiliary or the Atlanta Sail & Power Squadron. Other local venues of boating education and professional license can also effectively assist you to develop your skills as a mariner. Please contact me to learn more. 

Lake waters are hypothermia hazards and will remain so for a few months to come. Cold water boating brings a different set of considerations and awareness to your experience and with proper preparation and training can make for a great time on the water.


January 2020 column

It's show time ....

The Atlanta Boat Show is here again! Each year in January, the city hosts one of the biggest marine events in the country. Filled with many vendors and vessels, this production is the gateway to not only great deals, but a wealth of information that will enhance your time on the water and also improve your boating safety in a very big way. 
 
This article is written from a long-time attendee perspective, representing vendors and organizations of this large event. The production is enormous, with preconstruction beginning way before the show date. It is a once-a-year grand presentation of some of the most interesting people and expertise that comprise the boating industry. I’ve been going for many years now, since the mid 1990s for a wide variety of clients. Each successive year brings a new innovation that improves the overall experience or reinforcing one that already exists.

Change is happening at a much faster pace now and advanced electronics can become legacy quickly. This multi-faceted show will enable you to keep up with the latest developments in all types of gadgets, something that you will possibly need to operate on the water safely. You will find all sorts of professional experts to give you sound advice and service. It is truly a tremendous occasion: The Atlanta Boat Show.
 
Boating is unique in many aspects, and the way you approach the activity should be customized in your own way. If you want to expand your understanding of marine operations, then I would highly recommend obtaining the Georgia State License, taking a Boating Safety Course, even consider joining the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or America’s Boating Club (formerly the Power Squadron). There are USCG License courses of training and exams on the marketplace, and one of the best available is US Captain’s Training, (www.USCaptainsTraining.com). 
 
I say that not as a plug for advertisement, but because it is one of the most innovative ways of boating license education designed to give maximum benefit to the student. The instruction is professionally accomplished with an optional method called Blended Training. It has verifiable, impressive, successful results. If your objective is to learn a new skill or improve on an existing one, then I suggest learn from the absolute best. Contact me at my email address or visit my Training Division website: (www.NavTeach.com) to discover more about USCG Licensing Blended Training and how it can be a pathway to success. 
 
As you walk the many isles of watercraft, large, small, and other vendors please keep in mind, boating is an exceptionally profound lifestyle. Water sports is an attractive, adventure filled place to be and can be some of the best experiences you could have enjoying the outdoors. This is the place and time of year where we as boating enthusiasts gather to discover the latest and the greatest in the marketplace. Enjoy the show. 
 
To close out the January 2020 Atlanta Boat Show edition of my column I want to highlight one extremely important element that is far beyond the advances or benefits of any technology, vessel, or system that you will find at the exhibition. The one device that is simple to use, delivers the best protection known to boaters regarding safety, and is in fact the actual star of the show ... see accompanying graphic for the device.


December 2019 column

The balancing act - it's important on the water

This column is the wrap-up of a multi-part series involving human senses as they pertain to Safe Boating and Navigation. 

The sense of balance is an integral part conditions experienced by mariners also known as vestibular. Just as vessels on the water need balance for stability and safe movement, so do human beings that operate them. Balance also gives the feeling of acceleration. The most crucial component of this sensory is how the platform on which you are positioned is moving. The negative side of this situation is called vertigo. I’m not qualified to even describe all the causes of this human ailment but it is a real challenge when a person begins to lose the sense of balance with the aspect of adverse water surface conditions. 
 
Have you ever been afflicted with sea sickness before? There are various remedies for this malady by taking a pill, putting a patch behind the ear, or even wearing a simple device that wraps around your wrist and compresses against a specific spot. As detailed in USCG license training, a watercraft can move in multiple paths or divergent motions when on the water and of course that depends on numerous factors, especially if in rough conditions. These common movements that can effect human balance are:
 
• Roll – The vessel moving back and forth on a longitudinal axis and the most common of movements encountered.
• List – A set degree of leaning over caused by off-center weight distribution. Sailboats often have a list as they move through the water.
 Pitch – The condition by where the boat is moving up and down at the bow and stern and similar to a see-saw positioned at a fulcrum. This can cause the misery of sea sickness and also can have negative effects on the stability of the vessel as well.
• Heave – A combination of pitch and roll. It can have severe consequences when it comes to vessel stability and as the old seafarer saying goes: when the boat is heaving, so are you! 
 Yaw – A dangerous condition of loss of balance of the vessel and can cause catastrophic rollover of the craft if not contained or corrected quickly. It is the sideways movement of the vessel as it travels through the water causing it to lose stability or known by another deadly name, tripping.
 
As you can see there are many factors relating to your balance when boating. It’s how you react to these influences and the procedures you employ to reduce the effects that will determine the end results. There are countless procedures to remedy these situations and the most advantageous one to utilize is to simply Slow Down! I am not suggesting that you come to a complete stop but reduce speed enough to maintain steerageway or control of the heading of your boat that will pay the biggest dividends in safety. Many a maritime tragedy has been caused by these underway motions of a vessel and the chances of them impacting your voyage can be greatly reduced if you use proper maneuvering or handling techniques.  
 
It is imperative that you maintain stability of not only the craft, but of you as well. Loss of balance means loss of helm control and the ability of recognizing correct alignment of movement. During my career at sea on many types of ships and ocean environments, keeping my sense of balance has enabled me to correctly navigate and direct the ship. It also works wonders to relieve the dreaded curse of sea sickness.
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