is Enough, Enough?
by Tom Rau
As of late July, I know of 22
water- related fatalities during the 2007 boating
season. Not only do these grim figures weigh heavy
on my heart, they drive me insane since nearly
every one could have been avoided. So when is
enough, enough? What will it take to stop this
needless loss of life upon the waters that can
scotch a family in ways that no amount of heaving
will ever mend?
I liken water-related fatalities
to being betrayed by a loving friend. And like
a loving friend, few influences can be as persuasive
as the marine environment, especially on a nice
day. Coast Guard Statistics on boating fatalities
and injuries show that 83-percent occur on nice
I’ve been around and around
on this issue to the point of dizziness. For boaters
and water enthusiasts to stop the never-ending
cycle of waterborne deaths and injuries, they
must end their apparent infatuation with the marine
environment. Believe me, I’m as infatuated
as most, but I’ve known her indifference
all too well, and I have learned to keep her at
bay through constant vigilance. She simply could
give a hoot how I feel about her, good or bad.
She is enthralling alright but
never to be trusted. Following is a series of
recent fatalities and serious injuries that crossed
my boat-smart desk. Many of these deaths and injuries
can be laid at the doorstep of her victims, but
in the end, it was the marine environment that
prevailed, doorstep or not.
July 19, 2007,
Douglas Beach, Lake Michigan. A10-year-old boy
drowned in Lake Michigan in high waves as his
parents look on.
July 16, 2007,.
Norwood, Charlevoix County, Michigan. A 46-year-old
male drowned in Lake Michigan while retrieving
July 11, 2007,
Manistee, Michigan. A 15-year-old boy drowned
off Manistee’s Fifth Avenue Beach, Lake
Michigan. At the time of the mid-afternoon incident,
Coast Guard officials reported four-to-six-foot
waves with winds blowing between 15 and 25 knots.
July 11, 2007,
Chicago, Lake Michigan. A fisherman drowned after
the 16-foot outboard boat he was aboard capsized
and sunk in rough waters about a mile from Navy
Pier, Lake Michigan. He was not wearing a life
jacket. According to the National Weather Service
the winds were gusting about 25 knots, with lake
waves about 6 feet.
July 8, 2007,
Cheboygan County, Michigan. A 53 year-old male,
while fishing alone on Burt Lake, fell overboard
and drowned after becoming entangled in fishing
July 7, 2007,
Spring Lake, Michigan. A 33-year-old man jumped
off the stern of a boat and never surfaced. Ottawa
County Sheriff’s Department divers recovered
his body the following morning. The bayou, in
which he drowned, is locally known as “Hanky
Panky Bayou” because of the partying by
July 6, 2007, Clare County, Michigan. A jet-ski
operator slammed into a boat on George Lake and
was fatality injured. According to authorities,
at the time of the accident there were a lot of
boats on the lake.
July 6, 2007, White Lake Township, Michigan. A
16-year-old boy was serious injured on Pontiac
Lake when the inner tube he was riding slammed
into a boat dock. He was being towed behind a
personal water craft. The 16 year old suffered
head injuries, a broken left leg, and lacerations
to his right leg.
July 4, 2007,
Muskegon County, Michigan. An 8-year-old boy lost
his right leg after being run over on Middle Lake
by a 19-foot power boat. The boy was being pulled
on a tube behind a personal water craft when he
fell off the tube and was struck by the 19-foot
June 29, 2007,
Gladwin County, Michigan. A collision between
a jet ski and pontoon boat on Wixon Lake proved
fatal. The operator of the jet ski suffered fatal
injuries as a result of the crash.
June 20, 2007,
St. Joseph, Michigan. A 20-year-old male jumped
off the south pier into Lake Michigan and never
resurfaced. This brings my count of Lake Michigan
pier and beach fatalities over the last seven
years to 45.
June 15, 2007, Torch Lake, Traverse
County, Michigan. A 28-year-old man went overboard
off a boat while boating with friends. Friends
aboard the boat could not locate him. Rescuers
recovered his body the next day. Between 2005
and now I know of 34 boating fatalities due to
June 17, 2007,
Manistee, Michigan. A 47-year-male fisherman fell
off a 22-foot power boat off Manistee into Lake
Michigan. His boat was located by rescuers 30
miles northwest of Manistee. The boat was out
of gas with fishing lines out. His body remains
May 6, 2007,
St. Joseph, Michigan. A fisherman, 58, died after
his boat overturned on Lake Michigan off St. Joseph.
The small boat capsized when four-foot seas poured
over the stern. He was not wearing a life jacket.
On June 3, 2007, one of Michigan’s renowned
sailors, Bruce Goldsmith, died when the boom of
his 29-foot sailboat struck his head, knocking
him overboard into seven-foot seas off Monroe,
Michigan, Lake Erie. The 1967 and 1975 Pan Am
Games gold medalists sailor was not wearing a
On June 12, 2007,
a 75-year-old sailor separated from 15-foot sailboat
in choppy seas in Lake Michigan near Washington
Island, Wisconsin. An extensive Coast Guard search
failed to find the reportedly experienced sailor.
He was not wearing a life jacket.
And the list goes on….
These fatalities and injuries
occurred mostly in Michigan waters. On my Boat
Smart desk also sits a list of Wisconsin fatalities,
not to mention boating mishaps for the states
of Indiana and Illinois that border Lake Michigan.
But aren’t these Michigan boating fatalities
and injuries alone enough?
So when will enough be enough:
when boaters not only learn to boat smart but
realize why they should boat smart. In other words,
give the marine environment the respect it unconditionally
Tom Rau is a long-time Coast
Guard rescue responder and syndicated boating
safety columnist. Look for his book, Boat Smart
Chronicles, a shocking expose on recreational
boating — reads like a great ship’s
log spanning over two decades. It’s available
to order at: www.boatsmart.net,
or through local bookstores.