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My Brothers Nearly Drowned Me

Safety on the water alerts on rise before big boating weekend

By: Mike Suchan,

With Memorial Day advice to stay safe on the water, it reminded me of the time my brothers almost drowned me.

The houseboat and camping trips to Missouri’s stable of lakes kind of run together, but one year Jim and Tom tied several inner tubes together. We were having a blast jumping and flipping around with them in the water – until my leg got wrapped in the rope.

I remember being caught face down and having to flail both arms and arch my back to fight for a breath. Hidden behind the tubes, they couldn’t see me. Boy, that would have put a damper on the week. I don’t actually remember how I got free, but the point is a fun time can go sour quickly.

Any kind of accident can ruin the weekend, like this poor guy getting his fingers ripped off by a ski rope. BoatUS and state agencies offer advice during National Safe Boating Week. They point to some sobering numbers -- Indiana reported 58 open water drownings in 2013. Last year in Georgia, there were 112 boating incidents with 16 boating-related fatalities.

States do ramp up water patrols and will ticket unsafe and impaired boaters. Georgia conservation rangers made 160 boating under the influence arrests in 2013.

Along with designating a boat driver, the top safety tip is to wear life jackets. Lt. Kenton Turner, Indiana's boating law administrator, said accidents on the water can happen too fast to reach and put on a life jacket that is stowed away. My biggest worry is hitting an underwater obstruction and getting thrown from the boat.

"It's important that everyone wears a lifejacket while on the water," Turner said. "There is no reason why you, your family and friends can't have fun on the water while also wearing a life jacket."

Most states offer safe boating courses. Top tips include not overloading your vessel, following speed laws, using navigation lights at night, never sitting on gunwales or bow decking while in motion and always having an observer when towing a skier or tuber.

BoatUS suggests boaters check their safety gear. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and US Power Squadrons can be asked to conduct a free Vessel Safety Check at

To avoid a springtime sinking, BoatUS offers step-by-step free spring commissioning checklist at

For freshwater boaters at marinas with electric service, test and inspect to ensure no stray current is leaking into the water where it could potentially lead to Electric Shock Drowning. See for more.

Have a backup plan to get home in case your boat won't get you back to the ramp or dock. On water or on the road assistance for a disabled boat trailer can be summoned with the free BoatUS Towing App, available at

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