Show Date: October 16, 2012
While we were at IBEX, we took a break to chat with Bob Adriance and Beth Leonard about BoatUS. Adriance has been part of the team there for more than 30 years, and Leonard–a two-time circumnavigator–is new kid on the block.
We think you’ll enjoy this conversation with Adriance, Leonard, and ProBoat Radio WEST host Ann Avary.
P.S. In case you think Adriance’s voice is familiar, he played the part of Bob in last week’s melodrama, A Dark and Stormy Night.
ProBoat Radio WEST host Ann Avary introduces our guests, starting with a short conversation about BoatUS and the BoatUS Foundation before moving on to other topics.
LEONARD: Our online free boater safety course has been taken by more than 100,000 people in the past year. There is also a life-jacket lending program, with about 1,000 people participating each year. Borrow life-jackets for the grandchildren.
ADRIANCE: You can also borrow EPIRBS.
LEONARD: On the environmental side, there is a monofilament recycling program. There are collection bins around the country, and it’s recycled miles of fishing line. ecently, a cigarette litter program has resulted in less litter in general, and cleaner waterways.
Having been with BoatUS for 35 years, Adriance has spent much of that time on working on Seaworthy magazine.
ADRIANCE: Of course we want to reduce insurance loss, and we want to learn from our own mistakes. We try not to publish the stupid mistakes, but to talk about the mistakes that even I could have made.
Are there any incidents that really stand out?
LEONARD: During the summer, there were several electric-shock drowning incidents. Bob was writing about this 15 to 20 years ago.
ADRIANCE: Now ABYC and other safety organizations have become very active in building awareness. (See ProBoat Radio Show on ELCI with Dwight Escalera)
Where do you see the regulations going for electric-shock prevention?
ADRIANCE: The interim solution is to let parents know that jumping into the water off a dock where AC power is plugged in is very dangerous. It only happens in fresh water; we haven’t has a case in brackish water, but it may be possible.
LEONARD: In the Great Lakes, especially, it can be a problem, and people just have no idea of the danger.
Why isn’t there more awareness?
ADRIANCE: It happens infrequently, but it does happen.
LEONARD: When we were kids, we never thought about it, but then boats ran on DC and there was no power on the dock. People just aren’t aware of the change.
You’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this problem. It’s an important safety issue. In terms of other changes over the years, how have catastrophes and accidents affected safety concerns? How has technology come into play?
ADRIANCE: I can think of more problems caused by technology. Combine GPS and an autopilot and you’ll find a recipe for trouble. People forget the importance of looking ahead from the helm.
So you see an over-reliance on technology?
ADRIANCE: These are new things, and people just aren’t aware that they still can’t get distracted or complacent or they will cut another boat in half or run up on the rocks.
What can boaters do to improve their knowledge?
ADRIANCE: That’s what Seaworthy tries to do, and the foundation offers a course as well. Also, after a hurricane, we do a lot to educate people about what they should be done to be prepared.
LEONARD: We also work with the Coast Guard and Power Squadron to help people understand that all this technology is wonderful, but you can’t give up basic skills. We’re starting a series in the back of the magazine that will provide a seamanship article in every issue. Eventually, we’ll have video on line. A lot of people in our industry are very interested in this.
Over the years, have you seen people get rid of their older reliable technology?
ADRIANCE: There’s always been accidents because people didn’t know how to read a chart or use a compass. The technology makes it easier, but there are still plenty of people who appreciate their charts and compasses. At the same time, we were blown away by some of the new things we saw on the trade-show floor yesterday.
Can technology be an aid? Or is it a hindrance?
ADRIANCE: We saw a GPS yesterday that was so intuitive that you would really set a source with it.
LEONARD: Last year we registered mFA number? And the person who does that spends a lot of time talking to owners about the issues they may encounter in terms of interference and antennas. It should be easy to retrofit this equipment, but many people are intimidated by the equipment.
No, systems aren’t as “plug and play” as they should be.
ADRIANCE: A lot of people still can’t give the Coast Guard their position if they are in trouble.
Has the nature of accidents changed?
ADRIANCE: Drinking on a boat is the top problem. Even if you drink a little bit, problems can happen. The idea of a “designated skipper” has never caught on. Also, only 20 percent of the accidents were caused by the driver; the other 80 percent were caused by passengers who did stupid things. Even on a dock, people have injuries just trying to get on the boat.
Let’s talk about the catastrophe teams.
ADRIANCE: Catastrophes can be a variety of situations, but hurricanes are the most common. We have gotten very good at sending in a team to assess the damage in a methodical way. We can also look at why certain boats survived and others did not, for example there are different methods of tying down the boats.
LEONARD: I think we are unique in the industry in that we know how to deal with these situation. We go on and try to get as much done as quickly as we can. For example, after Katrina, some people received their claims within two weeks and that gave them money to live on for as much as six months.
ADRIANCE: The cat team is comprised of marine surveyors and most of them have been around for a long time. We’ll also hire local surveyors to supplement the crew that we’ve sent in. The cat team may be a dozen or more people.
LEONARD: On site they may need to find cranes and heavy equipment. And they also need to work with the salvors.
ADRIANCE: Salvors come out of the woodwork to try to make a quick buck after a disaster.
LEONARD: Our team has been through so many situations at this point, they can very quickly get to work and establish some kind of order.
ADRIANCE: Municipalities and even other companies will defer to the BoatUS cat team.
What about winter storms?
ADRIANCE: We are sometimes called in the winter. More often we’re called in after tornadoes, but there’s not much you can do to prepare. With snow, the problem is more often sheds collapsing.
Are you called in for fires?
ADRIANCE: Sure, someone may leave a heater unattended on in a boat, and by the time the fire is discovered, it’s raging out of control.
With shorepower, there are some advances in plugs, such as the Smart Plug.
ADRIANCE: Yes, and I like that idea. These newer devices provide better contact, and that’s a step in the right connection.
LEONARD: And we try to make sure our members are aware of technology like that so they can understand these safety issues. We want them to be better boaters and better consumers.