Recreational boating accidents have increased dramatically over the past few years and Annapolis is no stranger to sailing tragedies. While it may be difficult to pinpoint the cause of this recent spike — the Department of Natural Resources has sighted shorter spring seasons and hot summers for the increase — one thing is for certain: water safety is a serious issue, particularly in a boating-heavy community like ours.
In 2011, there were 24 boating-related fatalities, 156 accidents that resulted in injury, and 186 reportable water accidents in Maryland alone. Although many people assume alcohol is a huge factor in most boating accidents, the stats don’t reflect this. In fact, more water accidents are caused by boaters not being prepared for mechanical or operational failure than excessive speed or alcohol. According to the Maryland Natural Resources Police, 18% of accidents are caused by passenger or skier errors, 14% are due to operator errors, 12% are caused by wake, and 9% are a result of equipment failure. On the other hand, only 2% site alcohol as a contributing factor and roughly 9% are a result of excessive speed. This tells us that there are a number of factors that can lead to a boating tragedy, many of which are often overlooked by boaters who assume that their experience on the water will offset any potential problems.
In order to enlighten local coaches about the dangers of boating, the Annapolis Yacht Club (AYC) held a Safety on the Water program at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, inviting coaches from AYC, Severn Sailing Association (SSA), and Eastport Yacht Club (EYC). With the summer programs sailing into full swing all over the country, there was no better time to get the newest crop of coaches ready for the arrival of this year’s young sailors.
Tarrant Lomax, father of AYC Junior Sailor Charlie Lomax, facilitated the program and gathered many local city and fire officials including Craig Moore, Eastport Volunteer Fire Department (fire boat); Kevin Simmons, Director of the City of Annapolis Emergency Management and Deputy Chief of the Annapolis Fire Department; Aaron Edwards, EMS Eastport Volunteer Fire Department; Flip Waters, Annapolis Harbormaster; and Bill Brooks from the Harbormasters Office.
During the program, coaches were walked through their emergency response plan and how to execute it in the event of a disaster. Attendees were also taught the proper steps to take during bad weather and the precautions that must be made in order to ensure the safety of both children and coaches. AYC hopes that by taking steps to improve boating safety, other boaters in the area will be proactive in their approach to water safety. The ultimate goal of the program is to eventually develop a unified Master Safety Plan for the community.