It's an all-too-common story. Take inexperienced, fun-seeking tourists renting fast moving boats — add in distractions, alcohol, lack of knowledge of the local navigation hazards and rules of the road, and what would have been a wonderful day on the water ends in catastrophe.
CAPTAIN'S COURSE --Vern Gilbert -- eight times offshore racing champ and owner of West Coast Drive Service in Lake Havasu City -- is shown powering this Skater, capable of speeds nearing 200 mph, through Lake Havasu, Ariz. Obviously, Gilbert is experienced, but many recreational boaters take unbelievable risks that end in catastrophe. That is why the Lake Havasu Marine Association has obtained a commitment from The Maritime Institute of San Diego to teach a United States Coast Guard-approved Captain's Course at the Arizona lake, Oct. 17-28.
But how could that change if those revelers in the sun could opt to hire a licensed captain to look after their safety while their party goes on?
"Dramatically", says Jim Salscheider, president of the Lake Havasu Marine Association. "That's why we're excited to announce that we have obtained a commitment from the Maritime Institute, based in San Diego, to teach a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Captain’s Course locally."
According to Salscheider, operators in the watercraft-rental business have many horror stories about renting to people who don't know what they're doing, as well as to those who appear to have obtained a designated operator to pilot them on their journey of fun on the lake.
"Anything from damage to watercraft to an inebriated designated operation could and does happen. If certified captains were available for hire, the risk of the above catastrophes’ spoiling a day on the water would be greatly diminished."
Maritime Institute President Rags Laragione echoes the sentiment. "Having licensed captains available for hire could save lives and property on Lake Havasu and ensure safety on the lake's waterways.
“The two-week course we'll be offering is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Captain's course [that] meets the written-examination requirement for the Master Inland and OUPV/6-PACK License [that] allows a captain to pilot inspected and un-inspected vessels with paying passengers."
Both the Marine Association and the Maritime Institute view the introduction of licensed captains on the lake to be an important first step in solving a long-standing problem. "If the rental operators are successful in convincing boat renters to use new captains for their holiday fun on the water, everybody will benefit," Laragione said.
The new course will be held from Oct. 17-28 in a classroom at the Lake Havasu Fraternal Order of Eagles. For more information or to sign up to attend the course, call the Maritime Institute at 1-888-262-8020.
Arizona Boating & Watersports/Western Outdoor Times
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