At our family marina, Dawsons Marina on Lake Simcoe, where I demonstrated and sold thousands of new and used cruisers for many decades, I observed so many new boaters who were not accustomed to the movement of the boat. As a result, they were terrified of losing their balance and would hang on for dear life.
But, it wasn’t only new boaters, as I noticed the same behaviour from people buying their second or third boat.
Nothing is more unsafe or frightening than losing your balance on the deck, on the platform, in a small boat in rough seas, or when the Captain accelerates quickly, or stops too fast. Many boaters and non-boating guests often end up falling with resulting injuries.
There is one simple free tip to prevent falls in all of these circumstances and many more situations.
Stand with your feet apart.
Simply standing with your feet apart with knees slightly bent, allows you to move independently of the boat to maintain your balance. If the seas are really rough, you also want to be holding on with at least one hand.
Especially when taking photographs aboard, stand with your feet apart with one foot slightly ahead of the other, while also leaning your hip or thigh against a seat or rail. Then, you are free to move with your eye focussed on the camera and the object of your picture, without worrying about falling or losing your balance. If you must lean over the side of the boat to “get the picture”, ask someone to hold your belt, or tie a line around your waist then tie it short to the boat.
When you have your feet apart and knees slightly bent, with one foot slightly ahead of the other, planted on the deck, you can ride the waves and wakes; as well as any sudden alterations in speed. With your feet spread apart and your hip leaning against something solid, you become a stable tripod.
You can use this same tip when pouring from a carton of milk or bottle of juice, when the boat is rocking in the waves. When trying to pour into a glass on the table that is moving a different direction and speed than you are, spills are inevitable. Instead, stand with your feet apart and hip leaning against a counter or seat with the container in one hand to pour into the glass in the other hand. You are more likely to avoid spills, because both objects are moving together with your body.
When handling lines in the cockpit, or on the platform, spreading your legs will help you to move independently from the boat giving you stability.
Knowing these tips has prevented many falls, injuries and spills for thousands of boaters.