Tuesday, April 07, 2009

When Common Sense Isn't Home

I just finished an article on Boating Safety with a history of marina and boat fires in the recent past. I left out some, like when the mail boat caught fire leaving the dock and the carrier drown. There just wasn't enough space to cover everything. also left out was the most recent fire at the Boileau's floating Patio, because it was deliberately set.

A new one came to light last Saturday. Noticing Timberlake fire chief, Jack Krill parked at Boileau's, I sauntered over to find out what was up. It turns out that a boat with two adult men and several small children was stranded out just off Cape Horn, in Lake Pend Oreille.

Chief Krill invited me to go along on the rescue/tow operation. We shortly thereafter learned that a Navy work boat passing by was towing them in to the public launch, where we met them. Asked what happened, the young man, who will go un-named, since embarrassing him beyond where he already is wouldn't be friendly told us this. "We launched from here, (public launch in Bayview) and idled out to where we could put the hammer down. I gave it full power and noticed that I couldn't achieve more than 45 mph." I asked well then, how fast does it usually go? He said,"it's got a 454 in it and will do 65 mph." He went on to say that he then shut the throttle down as he could tell something was wrong. When he shifted into neutral, the engine seized up.

I asked him, well, what was your oil pressure gauge reading when you started out? He replied, " oh, it wasn't working." He then asked me, "the engine wasn't burning oil, but it was pumping out the exhaust." I then gently suggested that perhaps his oil pressure gauge was working, and was showing zero because he didn't have any pressure at all. I went on to suggest that the most likely path oil can take to the exhaust is through or around the pistons, such as in rings collapsing from the heat, which gauge apparently wasn't monitored either. The moral of this story is:

We are out there on the water with people that run at 65 mph and the only gauge they monitor is the speedometer. This isn't an isolated story, I'm afraid we have many unqualified operators out there.Boating Safety classes are available through the Coast Guard Auxiliary,U.S. Power Squadrons and the Kootenai County Sheriff, marine division. Take advantage of them and please remember there is much more to boating safely than the throttle. If this young man had had the engine seize up at full throttle, he could have pitch-poled or buried the stern and lost the children that were with him, along with his own life. Lake Pend Oreille and for that matter, every other body of water can be fatally dangerous.

The football players that lost their lives off Florida, is another example of ignorant boating. First, they took a small boat out 30 miles. Second mistake was anchoring the boat at the bow when rough weather hit. When a wave lifted the stern, the bow couldn't lift with it and the boat flipped. They had life saving PFD's aboard but weren't wearing them. The only anchor usable safely in that instance would have been a sea anchor. That is where you tow a bucket or sleeve or even a heavy jacket behind the boat. That will allow you bow to always face into the wind. They didn't and it killed them.

Boating safety is easy to learn. Ignoring the rules can be the last thing you'll ever do. Chuck Waller and George Grandy are working up a plan to petition the Kootenai County Sheriff Department for the purpose of forming a water born search & rescue group. Anyone interested, should contact George at 683-1859 or Chuck at 683-2389. It would help if you have a boat in the water and accessible at all times.

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