Swimming & Diving Near Boats
nothing like swimming from the back of your boat on a hot summer day. But
swimming from your boat isn’t nearly as predicable as swimming in your pool.
Boats may anchor in deep water and then, seconds later--a puff of wind or
current-- and the terrain beneath the boat is altogether different. There may be
rocks lurking just below the surface, currents that can carry a swimmer away, or
boats that come too close.
To make sure you and your crew stay safe while
swimming from your boat, there are a few things you need to know:
- Swimming from your boat can be great, but there’s a time and place for it. Never, ever swim in a marked channel, even if there are no boats around. You never know when a boat with limited maneuvering abilities will come along.
- Swimming in marinas should also be avoided. Marinas are made for boats to come and go; they are no place for swimmers. In addition to the risk being run over, boats that are plugged into AC shore power can sometimes leak electricity into the water, either from the boat or from the marina’s electrical systems, putting swimmers at considerable risk.
- Illegal dumping of holding tanks also occurs in some marinas, further making them unpleasant swimming holes.
- Don’t swim in areas where there are strong currents or undertow.
- Enter the water gradually, never dive. Under a boat, the terrain can be uneven, and landing on a rock or shallow spot is a real risk. Even if you’re going back to a familiar spot, droughts and currents can change bottom characteristics.
- Never leave the boat’s engine running while swimmers are in the water. Propellers can be deadly, and so can carbon monoxide (CO) fumes. Even a running generator can cause CO fumes to accumulate near the boat, which can be fatal to swimmers!
- When swimming from a boat, wear a life jacket for flotation or have flotation devices in the water for easy access by swimmers. Running a line off the back of your boat with a flotation ring or throwable float can also be useful.
- Make sure if you get off the boat, there’s an easy way to get back on. Not all boats are easy on, easy off.
Swim-proofing Your Swim Platform
If you have a swim platform, take a look at the cleats or other hardware attached to it that could cause injury if a person slips and falls on it.
There are several things you can do to make swimming from a platform - molded or teak - safer.
First, you can improve the non-skid by using a nonskid tape, which is inexpensive and much safer than the molded-in patterns. You can consider moving the cleats (or having a professional do the job) so that they are out of harm’s way.
It might also be possible to install a pop-up cleat that folds out of the way when it’s not being used. As an alternative, you could improvise a cover using something like a sailboat spreader boot or old tennis balls - anything that might soften the edges of the cleat, should a swimmer fall.
(photo by Bob Grieser)