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Boater’s Judgment and Maturity


The safe operation of a boat is significantly dependent upon the marinerÂ’s level of knowledge, skill, judgment, and maturity. If any one of these factors is lacking, it could easily result in a marine accident.

One of the most dangerous attitudes a mariner can possess is to think he or she knows it all. Our level of confidence should be equal to our level of knowledge and skill. To boast and display a level of confidence not commensurate with our level of knowledge and skill can be very dangerous. Increasing our level of knowledge and skill of boating is a never-ending experience. No matter how many years experience we possess no one can state that they honestly know all there is to know about safe boating. There is always something new to learn, there is always another skill to practice. Many of those that thought they “knew it all” have been lost at sea.

Judgment and maturity are a little more difficult to explain when discussing safe boating. According to WebsterÂ’s dictionary, “Judgment is the ability to make sound decisions.” In my opinion, the mature mariner is one who possess a sense of responsibility and understands the importance of his actions and how they effect the safety of those not only on board his vessel but all the vessels in his vicinity. When a mariner possesses this sense of responsibility, sound judgment is usually automatically applied.

I propose that in some situations the experienced boater may be more dangerous than the novice. Often, everyone knows who the novice is, and as a result, he is provided a wide berth by other boaters, and also given lots of direction by those supervising him on his vessel. On the other hand, when the person with years of experience is not cognizant of their actions due to a lack of attention, intoxication, etc., they are often the more dangerous mariner. People often assume their highly experienced friend is competently providing for their safety,

The marinerÂ’s knowledge, skill, judgment, and maturity are especially tested during the winter months. With the winter season comes the stronger winds and larger seas. All the navigable inlets along the east coast of Florida are more often affected by strong easterly winds during the winter months. An ebbing current in an inlet combined with a strong easterly wind will cause the inlet waves to become larger, and steeper. The period between crests becomes shorter. A boat hit by a large wave has less time to recover before the next wave comes pouncing down. Many boats have broached, capsized, or pitchpoled in inlets effected by such conditions. Whereas, when the current is flooding through an inlet with the same wind conditions the waves are usually smaller, less steep, and have longer crest to crest periods. When planning your boating activities be sure to consider the weather, and tidal conditions. Keep in mind that a strong northerly wind has the same effect on the swiftly moving Gulf Stream. Always have a marine radio to call for help. While weÂ’re standing by 24 hours a day to hear your distress call, tumultuous seas may capsize your vessel before you have a chance to make a distress call. The safest bet is to postpone your boating until the weather forecast improves … THATÂ’s demonstrating MATURITY and sound JUDGMENT .

To learn more about safe boating practices I encourage all boaters to complete a boating safety course. You may find the answer to your boating safety questions or the location and date of the next Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety Course by calling (800) 368-5647.
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