LeBlanc: Real boaters are a special group

You know folks, real boaters love their sport and the water. They like the feel of the wind and the spray blowing into their faces as they go out on the water whether it's saltwater or freshwater, power boat or sailboat it doesn't matter, they just enjoy the boat, the water and the wind.

They can usually be recognized by their appearance in many cases. One example of the results of many hours spent on the water is a case of "raccoon eyes", which is caused by permanently attached sunglasses and the sun's rays reflecting off the water. The "raccoon eyes" look is characterized by a mask-like whiteness around the eyes surrounded by sunburned cheeks, nose and forehead. Cold, rainy weather is the only known cure. Of course, there is always sunscreen as a potential prevention...but that is a lot of trouble.

Another item that verifies a person as being a true boater is if they have ever forgotten to install the drain plug before launching the boat. That is followed by the sudden realization that they're ankle deep in water, scrambling to the transom to install the plug, or rushing to get the boat back on the trailer faster than a race car pit crew. Yep, that really means your a true boater.

Many avid boaters will send boating-themed holiday and greeting cards like Sailing Santas, lighthouses with Christmas wreaths, and birthday cards with boats all over them. Non-boating families and friends will debate as to whether they have gone off the deep end. Chances are that a true boater is addicted for life, or until the time they are forced by age to sit in a rocking chair with a fixed smile on their faces while they bask in the memories of their boating lives of yesteryear.

A special class of boater is the sailor. I am not talking about the person that purchases a sailboat and just motors around with the empty mast sticking up in the air playing lightening rod. Most times these folks don't even bother to attach sails to the mast or rigging because they really don't know what to do with a sail, or a boat under sail or it is just too much trouble. Those folks fall under the heading of motor launch boaters and that is fine but not to be confused with “Sailors.”

No, what I am calling a “sailor” is the folks that by the time the boat leaves the dock have the boat pointed to the wind and are running up the jib. They may have a motor but that is to be used in case they hit a calm and for whatever reason cannot wait until it returns or they have to dock in a tight or congested area. Sailboats under sail “Have The Right Of Way.” Any that do not know or do not practice that should be flogged! Twelve lashes should get their attention for future reference.

Most "real" boaters also understand that boating and sailing are historically proven to lower blood pressure, whiten teeth, lower cholesterol and delay the aging process.

A condition that boaters of all kind may find themselves in that can lead to a dangerous situation if allowed to happen, is while sharing good times in beautiful weather with friends and allowing their boat to become overloaded.

It is extremely dangerous to overload a boat. This is a big problem because it usually ends up being a safety hazard for everyone on board. The load-carrying capacity and volume of a boat are determined by the weight and volume of the vessel’s materials. A boat is stable if it does not exceed its load-carrying capacity.

The more weight on a boat, the more likely it is to be pushed off balance and become unstable. I know that can sound like a bunch of mumbo jumbo but I have yet to see a boat in my life that didn't have a plaque affixed permanently to the interior of the boat that had the weight limit listed. That would not be true for homemade boats if anyone is still making homemade boats.

Overloading a boat puts a lot of stress on the boat’s motor as well as its hull, which can lead to leaks or worse yet capsizing. It’s more than just inconvenient when this happens because more often than not, those on board will need immediate assistance. Add alcohol to the equation and you have exacerbated the problem immensely.

Then there are the Personal Flotation Devices (PDF) and another concern. The law, and common sense, dictates that everyone on board must have a PDF available. Not only must they be available but they must be of the correct size for the individuals and they should also be fitted for each person on board, in fact to be really safe each being (including dogs) should be wearing one even though the law does not dictate that except for children.

So folks, now is the time of year when the weather usually starts to settle down and warms up along with the water and we humans start to get the bug to get our boats out and get going. This year once again let's put safety first in everything we do and that will help ensure that we have a wonderful year of boating ahead of us.

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