For recreational boaters, a simple fall overboard is the No. 1 boating accident “event” that leads to the most fatalities. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that in 2006, 275 persons died in 721 boating accidents that began with or involved a fall overboard.
While some of these accidents involved other factors, being able to quickly get back in the boat — without help — isn’t easy, as a BoatU.S. Foundation test of 11 portable boarding ladders recently found. Boaters and anglers need to be prepared, especially if you are alone.
Here are five important tips that will help ensure a fall overboard doesn’t become tragic. To see a complete report, visit www.boatus.com/foundation.
• Wear your life jacket. A fully clothed adult with no buoyancy will have difficulties attempting to get back aboard using any type of ladder.
• You don’t need to spend lots of money for a functional boarding ladder. Testers found an affordable model fashioned from 4-inch wide yellow webbing proved best. Simplicity also ruled as the highest-ranked ladders all had less than three steps. The ideal ladder length, measured from the water’s surface to the bottom rung, averaged 20 inches.
• Some ladders work better with certain types of boats. Depending on a boat’s construction or deck layout, most ladders performed well with one particular kind of vessel, and did poorly with others. It’s important to match the ladder to the boat.
• Before you head out, your boarding ladder needs to be positioned so it can be reached from the water. Also, attaching the ladder to the wrong spot on a narrow, lightweight boat can increase the chance of capsizing, especially if there is wave action.
• Practice is a must. Many ladders are difficult to use on the first try. Take the time on a warm, sunny day to get in the water, use the ladder and fine-tune any adjustments. Some ladders threw testers off-balance when weight was placed on them, causing the device to swing underneath the boat. Only practice solved this problem.
GILBERT TO CONSIDER CLOSING URBAN PROGRAM
Today the Gilbert Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will be deciding on a citizen proposal to drop Water Ranch Lake from the Urban Fishing Program and convert it to a catch-and-release, artificial fly-and-lure-only fishery requiring a state fishing license.
Urban anglers and concerned citizens are invited to attend this public meeting taking place at the Southeast Regional Library at Water Ranch Park, 775 N. Greenfield Road starting at 6:30 p.m. The Arizona Game and Fish Department does not support this proposal.