When a neighbor’s husky jumped the fence and ate my pet eastern gobbler Lenny, I was heartbroken. He was the coolest bird to ever strut around a back yard, and that darn dog made a snack out of him… bummer! Little did I think at the time that this sad event could cause trouble at sea.
I discovered this tragedy on my way out the door, to go on a fishing trip. There were several guys from out of town meeting me at the dock, so I couldn’t post-pone or cancel. I had to (sniff, sniff) pull myself together, grab the rods, and leave the burial for later.
Fast-forward six hours: I’m bumping the boat in and out of gear to hold my position within casting distance of a jetty, while everyone tosses their lures up towards the rocks. I can’t stop the images of scattered feathers and broken bird bones from creeping into my mind, and the next thing I know, I’ve shifted the boat into forward when I should have shifted into reverse. At the same time a wave shoves us towards the jetty, and suddenly my buddies start yelling “look out!”
Luckily, I was able to throw the boat into reverse and back off the rocks before smashing into them, but this event taught me an important lesson about keeping your head in the game, when you’re operating a boat. Okay, so most of us don’t have turkey-eating huskies to worry about. But there’s a long list of more common distractions that can lower your alertness level, and lead to danger aboard. Here are some of the more common ones:
Highway Hypnosis – this phenomenon isn’t limited to the road; it can happen on a boat as well, particularly after a long day of fishing or cruising. Don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security.
Navigation – the chartplotter, fishfinder, and other electronics may be invaluable, but staring at the screen or fighting your way through an unfamiliar menu can lead to disaster, when you’re running the boat.
Wildlife – yes, we love seeing it—but don’t let it become a distraction, when you need to stay alert.
Fishing – keep your priorities straight, even when the bite is hot.
Conversation – of course you want to be sociable, but don’t get so involved in the gab that you forget to do your most important job: captaining the boat.