Cautionary Tales in Boating Safety: Part 1

As part of our series of posts on safe boating, we will be presenting four real stories of people who have had dangerous or scary boating experiences. These individuals have shared these tales in hopes of helping others who may encounter the same situations. Regardless of whether or not an accident is unavoidable, the most important factor is what’s ultimately learned from it.

Ken Beckstead

Ken Beckstead (right) and friend Jeff Moschin. Photo courtesy of Ken.

There’s one unsettling boating experience Nevada resident Ken Beckstead will never forget.

While waterskiing at Kings River, he said he suddenly saw a jet boat traveling toward a narrow part of the river. The boat was equipped with a jetovator, a device that sprays water out of a jet propulsion system.  Because the spray is about 50 feet high and 200 feet back, it cannot be traveled through due to risk of bodily harm.

Although Beckstead was able to get to the side of the river and away from the jet boat, he said other boaters had no escape route. One of the trapped boats contained children.

“The jet boat actually went over the top of the boat with kids in a side on collision,” he said. “The kids were pressed down in their boat by the jet boat hull.”

Ambulances were called, and there were no serious injuries, Beckstead said. However, it remains an example of how some people get terrible results from showing off their fast boats at the worst times.

“Luckily the jet boat had no external propeller,” he said. “The kids would have been cut to pieces.”

He said he remembers another similar story of a man on a jet ski who left the shore and was suddenly side impacted by a boat traveling about 60 miles per hour. No one saw the man lying face down in the water except Beckstead’s friend on shore.

“It was too far to swim out to the guy,” he said. “He died before anyone in the water saw him.”

He said although he has owned different kinds of freshwater and ocean boats for the past thirty years, he never utilized fast speeds unless he was the only boat around for at least a mile. If the motor in any jet propelled vessel suddenly dies, the driver has no control over steering or braking.

He suggests never letting anyone without experience drive a boat because the wakes can sink a boater not familiar with crossing waves correctly. In addition, people should scan around their boat at least every minute for their own safety.

“The best advice I can give is to take a safe boating class,” Beckstead said. “Once you actually get on the water there is only one rule, never trust anyone.”

 


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