Number One Rule of Safe Boating – No Stupidity!

Stamp out stupidity; your own! Having fished a lot after dark, I have learned that simple mistakes can kill you. I found out the hard way that a flashlight is a wonderful tool when you’re caught in a situation that requires illumination, which I didn’t have because I had left the flashlights at home CMILC.

Several years ago a buddy and I went fishing below the Guntersville Dam near Guntersville, Alabama. We got to the boat ramp just before dark and put the boat into the rapidly moving water of the Tennessee River.

We fished around the lighted portions of the dam, between the locks and the spillways. This sounds dangerous but it’s not because the water is always calm in this area and usually harbors a lot of fish. That night wasn’t any different.

As night becomes early morning, fog blankets the river, leaving visibility almost zero. Even if we had remembered the flashlights, it still would have been difficult to see because of the density of the fog. No fear! Having had years of experience of stumbling around in the dark, we felt confident that we could find our way to the boat dock a quarter of a mile away.

We pointed the boat toward the ramp and started the motor. After 15 minutes of cruising down the river we knew that we had missed the launching area. The trip would normally have taken us five minutes.

Just as we were trying to decide which course of action to take to get us home, we broke through a patch of fog and screamed in fear! Five feet away from the front of the boat, a huge grain barge was sitting in the water, awaiting its turn to go through the locks.

We had been traveling in ever widening circles that had brought us back to the place where he had begun our journey! Besides flashlights, we had neglected to bring a compass which would have kept us on a straight path.

Jerking the steering wheel just in time to mildly scuff the port side of our boat, we aimed at the lights of the dam that were now casting an eerie glow behind the fog and were able to get back to the spot where we had been fishing. We stayed there until dawn when we could see how to get back to the boat ramp.

Forgetting little things like making sure you have all the equipment you need when you know you are going to a river in the dark is really stupid. Imagine being thrown overboard in fast moving water that is famous for its undertow currents. It can be a scary situation when you’re in zero visibility with no one around to save you.

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