Good Boating Habits are Universal

by Wayne Spivak

I just took a short vacation to sunny, warm Acapulco. I quickly adapted to the 125 degree difference between NYC and Acapulco.
No, there wasn't a misprint! 125 degrees was the apparent temperature difference! In NYC (with wind chill factor) it was -40 degrees Fahrenheit. In Acapulco, it was a warm and balmy 85 degrees.
But I digress somewhat from my intended point: Good boating habits are good boating habits. They don't stop at the border of your city or town; county or state; lake or river; ocean or country. Good boating habits are universal!
While in Mexico, I picked up a local newspaper. Lo and behold, on page one was an article on how the recent increase in boating accidents had reached the attention of the Captain of the Port. The fact remains that boating accidents happen wherever people boat.
Good boating habits: Let's take some good boating habits that the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary try to convey to our boating community.
1.Wear your PFD (life jacket)
2.Don't boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
3.Be an educated boater
These three points are both interdependent and independent. They are universal and also givens. Most importantly, if you follow them, the statistics tell us you're less likely to become a (negative) statistic.
Well, back to my vacation. On my journeys around the coast and on both Acapulco Bay and Puerto Marquez Bay I saw all manner of marine sport being enjoyed by one and all.
From boogie boarding to jet skis (PWC); kayaks to sailboards; snorkeling to power boating. Men, women and child alike were enjoying the beautiful waters.
However, were they safely enjoying these sports?
Safety is not a geo-political casualty: Each of these endeavors can be made safer and more enjoyable by following the aforementioned three concepts.
BUI: Let's start with alcohol and drugs. This is an easy target for suggesting not to partake and not to participate. If your judgment is impaired, your likelihood for loosing your balance or awareness of your direction and surrounding increases.
1.Lack of balance and you fall.
2.Lack of surroundings and all sorts of disasters can befall you, from drifting away from your point of origin, to running into a moving boat.
Unfortunately, many a participant was imbued with margaritas and Cerveza (beer).
PFD's: We went on a boat ride that took us to the famed Acapulco cliff divers. This seaborne tour also included snorkeling, diving and kayaking. An added bonus that had all of us, including Captain and Crew thrilled, was the grey whale pod that surfaced next to the boat.
For thirty minutes the three adults and one calf entertained us with their playfulness. What wonderful pictures and videos we all took!
We dropped anchor in a little cove in Acapulco Bay. Here the Crew of our boat took out the kayaks and snorkeling equipment. The only missing component or piece of equipment were buoyancy compensators for the snorkelers and PFD's for the kayakers.
One couple, who claimed to be members of a Boston area kayak club, not only went kayaking without a PFD, but took their toddler without her PFD. They didn't even put a life jacket on their little girl while we were in the ocean, which was running 2 to 6 foot seas.
Boating education: Boating education isn't just about safety equipment and its use, nor is it about navigation. It's not about how your GPS works, or how your depth finder integrates with your other electronics.
Not to say that these topics shouldn't be learned and applied to make your boating trip safer and more enjoyable, but there are other aspects to boating education that people tend to forget, especially while on vacation.
If you're going to use a new type of boat, take it slow and easy. Learn how the boat handles. Learn how it takes a turn.
Safety can, to a certain extent, be mandated - but common sense can't!
So, whether you're on vacation in your own back yard, or in another country, if you're boating, utilize the good boating skills that we in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary promote.
You'll be safer and have a more enjoyable holiday!
For more information about the Coast Guard ( or Coast Guard Auxiliary ( contact you local United States Coast Guard unit.