Danger from debris far from over for boaters

On the Outdoors

April 18, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The Natural Resources Police issued a warning to boaters last weekend to be on the lookout for debris moving down Maryland river and bay waters as a result of flooding this winter -- and it is likely that the danger of collision will exist well into the summer and perhaps all season.

vTC While such a state of affairs is unusual for Maryland waters, be assured that this is not a case of overreaction. Bay beaches from the North East River to Point Lookout are still strewn with tree trunks, pilings and logs, despite continuing cleanup efforts.

And each unusually high tide is likely to free a slew of additional debris.

The NRP asks boaters who sight debris that is hazardous to navigation to report it to the U.S. Coast Guard by VHF radio (Channel 16) or to call the Department of Natural Resources at (800) 865-1899.

The NRP is marking large pieces of debris to warn boaters of their presence, but even a short length of heavy wood can damage a propeller or an out-drive.

Sailboats are also at risk because some of the water-logged pilings and logs are being carried by the current a few feet below the surface and can cause damage to keels, centerboards and hulls.

NRP tips for safe boating while there is heavy debris include: Reduce speed to improve visibility and allow more reaction time. Also, less damage is likely at a slow rate of speed should a collision occur.

Avoid boating at night, when it will be more difficult to see debris on the surface and virtually impossible to see submerged objects.

Refrain from drinking and wear life jackets, just in case of collision and a passenger or crew going overboard.

Check safety gear -- including radio operation -- and file a float plan with a friend or family member before setting out. A float plan should include time and place of departure, general route to destination and estimated time of arrival. Also include your radio numbers and call sign.

Given the potential for damage from debris, it probably also is a good idea to review your boat insurance -- or to buy a policy if you are an uninsured boater.

BOAT/U.S., the largest organization of boat owners in the country, suggests checking the following:

Hull insurance, to cover physical damage or loss to the boat as well as to all boating equipment and gear necessary for operation and maintenance. All-risk coverage is preferable. If possible, get a policy that pays an agreed value on the boat rather than actual cash value, which pays the current market price for the boat if lost. If you trailer your boat, make certain it is covered either through your boat insurance or your automobile policy.

Liability should protect you against claims against you for loss of life, personal injury and damage to the property of others. You also should have a provision for protection against fuel or oil spills.

Medical expenses incurred by anyone on the boat -- yourself and your guests -- should be covered.

Damage or personal injury caused by uninsured boaters should be covered by your policy, with provisions to include coverage of all aboard.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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