Alcohol Consumption While Boating is Common
Springtime will be upon us in Charleston very soon; and a record number of boaters will hit the water for good times, building great memories. Unfortunately, with boating, comes alcohol consumption, and inexperienced, irresponsible boat operators. Anyone who has the money can buy a boat. Every year in Charleston, especially at the beginning of the boating season, there are catastrophic injuries and deaths from boating accidents.
It is legal to drink alcohol while boating, but illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated. Inexperience alone on the water is dangerous; but when inexperience and alcohol are combined, the results can be catastrophic or fatal.
The typical scenario is that a boat owner will invite people out on a boat, and people will bring alcohol and food to contribute to the festivities. The weather is warm, sometimes hot. A combination of liquor drinks and beer is common. At the end of the day, it’s common for boats to stop for dinner at waterside restaurants and bars for a late afternoon or evening dinner, where additional alcohol is served. The opportunities for intoxication while boating are great.
Protect Yourself from Boat Accidents and Injuries by Knowing Your Captain
Do not get on the boat without knowing the experience and attitude of the captain. Many boat owners are extremely cautious and responsible, and have a great deal of respect for the dangers associated with boating. Others view their boat as a party platform, a place for drinking and partying, with minimal knowledge about local waters or boat safety concepts. Know your captain.
Seek Safety in Dangerous Situations
Do not be afraid to step off at the dock at the outset and refuse to embark on a boat trip if you do not feel comfortable with the captain. If you are on a boat where unsafe and reckless activity is occurring, do not hesitate to ask to be returned to shore; or hop aboard another boat with a safe captain if that is possible. If your captain is intoxicated, ask to be dropped off at the nearest dock. Simply call UBER or a friend for a ride home by land. A drunk captain operating recklessly can cost you and everyone in the boat your lives. Do not be shy. Protect yourself.
Navigation in Busy Waterways
Waterways in Charleston are becoming increasingly crowded with vessels of all sorts: motor yachts, sailboats, and small motor boats of all sorts share open waters such as Charleston harbor and small creeks and waterways such as the intracoastal waterways that run between popular destination points such as Morris Island, Capers Island, Dewees Island, and Shem Creek. In February and March of every year boat dealers sell new boats at boat shows to newcomers to the marine experience, transplants to Charleston from inland states. Some are responsible enough to take boating courses; but others simply buy a boat and head out with friends onto the water. So at any given time during the spring and summer, there is undoubtedly a mixture of experienced and trained, and inexperienced, untrained persons operating boats. Boat accidents in Charleston’s busy waterways are inevitable and common, unfortunately.
Dangerous Nighttime Navigation
Navigation during the day is dangerous enough when you combine inexperienced boaters, alcohol and congested waterways. Very often, boat trips don’t end during daylight; boaters navigate at night; and that can be especially risky, if not done properly. One of the biggest mistakes boat operators make at night is to rely on navigation devices for navigation. There are numerous instances of boats running into docks, channel markers, light towers, other boats and the land, where the boat operator attempts to navigate through a dark, waterway, while looking down at a GPS guided navigation device. Unfortunately, some of these accidents occur at high speeds, resulting in catastrophic injuries and death. There are some common sense ways to stay safe while operating a boat at night.
First, the speed of the boat should be kept to a very minimum, for obvious reasons; second, although it is helpful to have a GPS guided navigation screen for the boat operator to look at, it is crucial that the boat operator use at least a 2 million candle power spot light, so that during operation, the boat driver can detect the red and green channel markers ahead, to keep the boat properly in the channel and from the shore, sandbars, and other structures. Third, the boat driver should be sober, with no impairments of judgment. Fourth, the occupants in the boat, during the day and night, but especially at night, should be calm and relaxed, not causing distractions to the boat driver; and finally, the boat driver should enlist other people to assist and keep an eye out for unexpected objects in the water.
Under Admiralty Law, “Slight Negligence” is the Standard of Care
The Law of “Admiralty” governs accidents that occur while in boats on navigable waters. The boat captain owes guests on the vessel a duty to use ordinary care to prevent against present dangers, or impending dangers. The captain has to think ahead to see what might be coming; and that includes bad weather that might be approaching, putting passengers in harms way. If the captain is only slightly negligent for injuries or damages suffered, the law of admiralty says the captain of the vessel is liable. It comes very close to strict, absolute liability for a person’s injuries or damages. A person injured not only has a claim against the captain and the owner of the vessel, but also has an “in rem” action against the vessel itself.
If you are in a boating accident, call us; we are glad to advise and assist. We have a vast amount of experience with boat operation and navigation. Our firm understands the rules of the waterways and oceans. We are dedicated to protecting you and your loved ones when you have been injured in a boating accident.