The outcomes from the Desert Storm Poker Run at Lake Havasu highlight and brought home hard what can go wrong on the water. We have now seen the video of the DCB M35 going over during the actual event too many times.

Safety? What does this really mean, we read about and hear people talk about it. Safety for the most part seems to be people talking about life jackets, kill switches, and having rescue divers at recreational boating events. Aka “Poker Runs”

In every instance of a boat crash that I have witnesses or reviewed the boat was never the problem. Now you can say it was a mechanical failure, the drive, the steering, the tunnel tab stuck, the hull came apart. Well in every instance of this occurrence the human was responsible for the design, engineering, replacement part, repair, or modification to the part and is really where the responsibility rests. The failure of the human to properly maintain and manage what they are riding is where the failure occurred.

Professionally safety protocols are broken down into two principals; prevention and response. Boating safety and event safely plans are primarily based upon antiquated response plans rather than prevention plans. You carry or wear life jackets, in case you get thrown into the water. You have fire extinguishers in case you have a fire. Well what about preventing yourself from being thrown into the water or prevent the fire from staring in the first place.

Prevention of the BOAT CRASH! In most cases the boat seems to get into trouble all by itself, rarely is it a collision or allision, typically the boat is being run with either too much positive or too much negative trim for the speed and conditions and will either trip and stuff or be turned with too much transom lift and swap ends which typically ejects all the occupants. This scenario happens all too often and it occurs in many different segments not just high performance boating; center consoles, tow boats, small runabouts; it seems the HP segment just gets a little bit more attention when it happens and the boat manufactures get a undeserved black eye. Sometimes it appears or is in fact true that a particular boat has a higher frequency of incident and the boat gets a bad reputation because of it. In one case a particular boat hull was impossible to insure because of its reputation and in reality the boat was not at fault the drivers were.

It is true that some hulls are less forgiving than others, this doesn’t mean the boat is bad it just means it requires educated and trained skill set to drive rather than the narcissist attitudes that believe if they can drive a Lamborghini they can handle a performance boat. Reality! Some hulls are very forgiving and will let the operator get away with stupid moves again and again and others are not and won’t let you miss at all, but it’s still your fault, not the boats fault. You can go to sea in a ship that should be condemned and a well trained, motivated, and incentivized crew will make the crossing and fulfill the mission, conversely you can have the best ship in the world with the most sophisticated equipment on board and the failure of the human will run it on the rocks and kill souls aboard.

The interesting and sad thing that happens when all goes bad is the lawyers, the surveyors, the insurance adjustors, and the public pontificators all assemble and begin the process of finger pointing and discovery to see who has the deepest pockets. The innocent and clearly non responsible parties usually have to pay dearly to defend themselves and pay to prove their innocence because they are not and were never responsible.

Insurance companies accept years of ownership to mitigate risk and allow this to be a measure of skill. RIDICULOUSNESS! Demonstrated Human Performance is the only thing that can help us if we move forward out of this mess. Knowledge without skill is only words on paper and performance without understanding fundamental knowledge is a precarious perch to which the human will eventually fall from.

Don’t blame the boat, Don’t blame the conditions, Don’t blame anything other than the human that was in control and the other humans that enabled them to be there. I am so very thankful for those who have lived and remain saddened by those who have not. I have lifted the body bags, I have towed the upside down boats, I have removed the drain plugs and stepped through the bloody water from the dead body in the cockpit, I have been the impromptu preacher at the poker run celebration asking for a few minutes of silence to remember those that died today. I have listened and supported to great friends who no longer boat because they have been so negatively affected by the mess of this all. In all of those cases I got to the person and to the scene too late to help. The prevention planned failed and I am tired of FAILURE and I am furious at those who silently and cowardly inhibit our efforts to bring a professionally based safety solutions.

Brad Schoenwald