Duckworks - Safety First!
The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

Safety First!
by Wayne Spivak
National Press Corps
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

And now a message
from our Paddle boater friends…..

Every time I write an article that I believe to be inclusive of the Paddle boater set, I get some comments from those same people.

I must say they have been extremely supportive, but also corrective and nay I say, complaining. Let’s take each issue separately, because I think when they are explained, you’ll understand the title of this little monograph.

Paddle boaters want to get more involved in recreational boating safety (RBS) as well as Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). Paddle boaters can go places that traditional boaters can’t, such as areas of our bays and tributaries that are too shallow and hard to reach, but can be very popular with both recreational user and miscreant.


I don’t believe our Paddle boat friends are complaining just to complain. Upon careful scrutiny, analysis (both statistical and behavioral) I have come to the conclusion that they have valid complaints. Our friends want to be respected by the traditional boater.

And respect is a two way street. Dozens of these complaints of you power boaters failing to give the proper respect to our manually propelled brethren of the water.

Let me remind you dear reader that our manually propelled brethren are restricted in maneuverability, they should be given the legal courtesy of the bigger more maneuverable Power boat, by having the latter stay out of the way of the former. In other words, Rule 18 of “The Rules of the Road International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea”; better known as COLREGS; states that

“(a)A power driven vessel underway shall keep out of the way of: (i)a vessel not under command; (ii)a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver; (iii)a vessel engaged in fishing; (iv)a sailing vessel;”.

Time and time again, I’ve had complaints about near misses (don’t you love that oxymoron, but that’s been covered by William Safire in the New York Times Magazine). I’ve heard complaints about wakes. I’ve heard complaints about safety issues.

A boat is responsible for its wake, and the damage it causes under most state laws. I myself, while in one of my boats, have almost been pitch polled by wake caused by a larger, heavier power boat. That being said, I know from which our friends are talking.


I have also been taken to task for using the term “traditional”. It seems our Paddle boat friends have a very logical and salient point in why they feel that they are not “non-traditional”, but are, to a very large degree the original “traditional” boaters.

The Paddle boater traces their ancenstry back to ancient times when man (or even the precursor of man) used implements to push and/or pull a vessel of some kind through the water. These vessels were most likely some type of canoe, and the implements were some type of sticks, which ultimately eveolved into oars.

The Power boat (or more correctly the steamboat) was invented shortly after James Watt improved the then extent steam engine (1769). John Fitch, in 1787 made the first successful steamboat engine (one that didn’t blow up). Thus began the beginning of the non-traditional boat.

So, why do we use the term in reverse? I think it has to do with the mandate Congress gave the Coast Guard in the 1960’s vis-à-vis Recreational Boating Safety. Congress wanted the Coast Guard to stem the tide of accidents and deaths on the nation’s waterways as they related to power and sail boats.

These became the traditional RBS focus, and it is only recently that the Coast Guard has refocused its attention on the Paddle boat marketplace. Hence, if power and sail are traditional, then Paddle boats must be non-traditional.

Hence forth, I will try not to categorize boaters into traditional and non-traditional categories. I will, I am sure, chastised for what ever category I choose, but it won’t be traditional and non-traditional.

In Compromise…

So, let us all agree, sailor and Sailor, oarsman and coxswain, foot peddler and stroke, that we must respect each others attributes and frailties, and by doing so, add to the general safety of the sport we so love.

Let us all practice safe boating, by using common sense when it requires, by making sure we follow the Rules of the Road and that all our vessels meet or exceed Federal, State and Local standards.

And while we in such a compromising and agreeable mood, let us all add to our boating knowledge by taking at least some type of safe boating course.

For more information on boating safety, Vessel Safety Checks, or the Coast Guard Auxiliary, contact us at or on our toll free number 1-877-875-6296.