Test those blokes at the helm

By Steve Estes

I’ve long been a believer that you should have a license to drive any motorized vehicle. If it will travel over five miles per hour, you should have some experience driving it, and someone else should be charged to make sure you know how to operate it safely.

Of course, many of us have forgotten half the safety lessons we’ve been given about cars over the years and continue to do it the way we want to anyway, more often than not crashing the deadly beasts into each other at ridiculous rates of speed.

Let’s take the recent mini-season examples. Yes, we could have a slew of poster children for how not to drive an outboard, or inboard, or I/O, or even canoe or kayak for that matter, and there is no end to the horror stories about lackadaisical personal watercraft operation.

But sometimes, you just have to wonder where our supposed brains are when you see these folks out on the water.

The first example is the “I’m too busy talking to pay attention to those silly flags.”

There are reasons why people float diver-down flags attached to their ankles. It marks where there is a human being in the water. But each year during mini-season, we listen to at least one acquaintance, many times more, talk about the idiot that drove full bore right over the top of them while they were trying to surface for air. Now, if I am in a channel, I expect some traffic. But if I’m in six feet of water off the beaten path, I figure that person can avoid my flag, and me.

Seems like that’s not possible, though.

I’m real fond of the “I see those people coming up with bugs, let’s go over there.”

This is the phenomenon whereby every bug hunter in the immediate vicinity tries to crowd into the same spot you’re diving because they see you pitch a bug in the boat. They’ll toss the anchor in on your head, they’ll run their anchor line right across your bow, and often they’ll dive right into your hole while you’re surfaced.

And of course the driver of the boat comes in at full speed, backs off on the throttle at the last minute, creates a huge wake, swamps all the smaller boats, gives everyone surfacing at that particular time a lungful of salt water, and then sits back while his minions scour the bottom for the tasty crustaceans.

And lest we forget, we all remember the “Hey man, I saw that spot before you did, that’s why I’m steaming straight at you at full throttle and dropping anchor on the run.”

Boat drivers are supposed to slow down to idle speed when within 100 yards of a diver down flag. I am never more than 100 yards away from the boat and there have been more times than I care to count where a boat has driven right over top of me with motors at full speed and a wake I could ski.

One of the phenomena I have noticed in recent years is that boats seem to get more and more motors on the back of them. I guess people think that getting there fast will increase their chances of grabbing a few succulent spiny lobster.

Trust me folks, when I tell you, how fast you get there doesn’t change the luck you’ll have once you’re there.

And lastly, we have the, “I want to try that spot” boat drivers. Seems like this type always has a driver who’s also a hunter. The hunter sees a potentially bountiful spot while underwater, taps his mates, heads topside, jumps in the boat, rams the throttles to full bore and washes over the gunwales of the eight other boats in the immediate vicinity so they can change their location by 30 yards.

Usually they don’t even have the anchor off the bottom when they conduct this maneuver so it’s dragging through the water, endangering every other diver/snorkeler in the surrounding area so when they get 30 yards away they only have to wait for the anchor to settle.

So what if there’s another diver down there 50 yards from his own boat who gets beaned on the head by a passing anchor.

‘Nuff said. License revoked.

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