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Boaters could learn lessons from JFK Jr.'s ill-fated flight

Recently the Times published an article with the headline "Get-there-itis" can be fatal for pilots. This spoke of the tendency of inexperienced pilots, such as John F. Kennedy Jr., who ignore potential trouble _ marginal weather and poor nighttime visibility _ to get where they need to go. Boaters, as well as pilots, can learn the lesson.

As with small planes, many small boats are not well equipped for night cruising or for bad weather conditions. To help prevent tragedies, pilots are required to complete formal training; however, at this time there are no requirements for adult boaters in the private sector.

Education and preparation are the best protection for boaters. Every boater can benefit from boat safety courses, which encourage conservative behavior (not illogical, macho behavior) on the water.

Thorough preparation includes:

Before leaving the dock, boaters should inspect their vessels.

Boaters should file a float plan of their trip with a reliable person. If the boater doesn't return on time or a problem arises, the Coast Guard can be contacted and given helpful information.

Boaters should analyze the latest weather report to assure good weather. If the weather looks questionable, don't go.

When traveling along the Intracoastal Waterway or in the gulf, boaters should try to travel with at least one other boat. There is safety in numbers.

Knowledgeable boaters can have great fun on the water. To quote The Wind in the Willows: "There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." We might add a caveat: ". . . messing about safely in boats."

For information on safe boating courses in your area, call the U.S. Power Squadron at (888) 367-USPS or (800) 336-BOAT.

Donald E. Lochner is a retired airline pilot and the past commander of Clearwater Sail and Power Squadron Inc.