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When and How to Help Boaters?

Chuck Giles, MyOutdoorBuddy.com

By Chuck Giles
Whether we realize it or not, those of us who enjoy boating have joined an exclusive fraternity.

We signed nothing obligating us to help each other in times of distress. However, there are laws, and moral obligations to be obeyed or observed in certain situations.

If you are not aware, the Harbors and Navigation Code does indeed oblige us to provide assistance in the case of life-threatening situations, if it does not put you, your boat or your passengers in danger.

In addition, once you are on scene, you are required to remain there until either relieved by a higher authority or the situation is resolved.

“What goes around, comes around.”

If it is not a dire emergency, your own moral code is the only factor you need consider. If possible, you can make phone calls or maybe provide a tow back to the marina. Quite frankly, you may also decide to do nothing. If that is the case, remember the phrase “what goes around, comes around.”

In today’s “lawsuit-happy” world, it can certainly be understood if we choose not to get involved if we see another boater frantically waving his arms as we cruise by. Luckily, there is no need to fret too much over possible litigation. The Boating Safety Act of 1971 grants protection in most cases from any court action as long as you act reasonably and within your scope of knowledge.

Fortunately, that unwritten and unseen “good Samaritan” inside most of us, tugs at our conscience. There is also that little detail we have indeed joined that “brotherhood” of recreational boating enthusiasts and the fact is we would want someone to help us were we in their lifejackets.

Case in point: What would you have done?
There is some background to bring up this subject. Just last week, a good friend and experienced boater decided to get away from the lake crowds and venture onto the Sacramento River. It was his first attempt at this particular location. Even he admits this was not the smartest decision.

“Howard” (as I will call him) is always a safe and sane boat operator, but, nonetheless, he accidentally ran aground, even driving carefully and with his jet motor. River navigation is a whole other world compared to lakes.

The fact he managed to get away from the crowds turned into a distinct disadvantage on this trip. There were no other boats in the vicinity for quite some time. He had been astute enough to bring his cell phone and called his wife to send assistance.

In the meantime, a fellow fisherman did happen by and cruised over to hear Howard’s plight. After a half-hearted attempt at dislodging the boat, he just decided to leave. He said he had to meet somebody. He offered no other options for help. Remember, this was not a life-threatening situation, so he was well within his rights to take off.

It pays to be obliging!
A short time later, another boat came along with two young men aboard. They took their membership in the boating fraternity very seriously. After much strenuous rocking, pushing and towing, they got Howard dislodged. Not only that, they offered to make sure he arrived back at his launch location.

Howard offered them money for their trouble. At first, they vehemently refused. He then waved a $100.00 bill and they re-considered. Just too bad the first gentleman did not stick around. That kind of money pays for a lot of gas and tackle. And when you are pulled out of jam, do whatever you can to show your appreciation.

The moral of this story, if there is one, could well be to put yourself in the other’s position. Take your membership seriously.

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance the experience of fishing, hunting or boating in Northern California or Southern Oregon. What have you learned? Your expertise, no matter where you fish (fresh or saltwater) or what species you target, could be invaluable to other anglers. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to editor@MyOutdoorBuddy.com. Please include your name and hometown.]

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