Go-Fast Boat Safety: Six Tips

These tips are good for all boaters, but the importance of the advice increases in proportion to boatspeed.

16th February 2014.
By Matt Trulio

Free time is precious, which means that you need to enjoy every moment of it when you hit the water in your high-performance powerboat. But maximizing fun doesn’t mean compromising safety. Nothing will stop the fun faster than an accident, even a minor one. Awareness and caution are the keys to safe driving.

(Psst, if you’re a passenger, you might want to read Safety Essentials for Go-Fast Boat Passengers.)

Awareness and caution are the keys to safe operation of a high-performance powerboat. Photo by Tim Sharkey.

Awareness and caution are the keys to safe operation of a high-performance powerboat. Photo by Tim Sharkey.

To that end we talked to renowned performance-boat driving instructor Tres Martin, who founded the nation’s leading go-fast boat driving school that bears his name, and asked him for practical, everyday tips that can make you and your passengers safer on the water. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Booze and Boat Driving Don’t Mix: “With the way performance boats are today, with all the skills that need to be ready at hand and all that is going on around you when you’re out on the water, there is no margin for error. You need all of your faculties and skills as good as they can possibly be, and any alcohol compromises those skills. You want to be at your very best—at your highest level—when you’re operating a performance boat, or any boat for that matter.”

2. Feel Free to Slow Down: “Just because your boat will run 100 mph doesn’t mean you have to enter a 100-mph class in a poker run. Pick a class where you can cruise along at a comfortable speed so you can keep yourself and your passengers in a safe position.”

3. Drive For Maximum Passenger Comfort: “It always has to be in the back of your mind that as the driver, because you’re hanging onto the steering wheel and throttles, you never feel what your passengers feel. So you might have a misconception about what a great job you’re doing. The best operator is the one whose boat exits the water the least. That means he chose a speed and trim level that will allow the nose of the boat to divide and displace the water and keep from damaging the boat’s drive train and occupants.”

4. Pass With Care and be Aware: “Let’s say you’re getting ready to overtake a vessel. You are the give-way vessel. If the driver of the boat ahead looks back at me once, I am pretty sure he will hold his lane. But if he looks back at me twice, I am pretty sure he won’t because I know he’s nervous. So when I pass him, and I usually like to pass him on my port side so he can see the nose of my boat in his peripheral vision, I want to give him as much room as possible.”

5. Take Your Time Docking: “A boat will always make it to shore. You just need to help it. You don’t need to force it. The No. 1 mistake I see people make is they hurry. They get impatient and aggressive, and then they try to manhandle the boat to the dock. And that’s where they get into trouble.”

6. Inspect Before You Run: “Just like a pilot does with an airplane, you have to check your boat every time before you run it. Believe it or not, we have boats that are brought to us for the school that just can’t make it to the water.”


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About the author:

Matt Trulio

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Matt Trulio is the co-publisher and editor in chief of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site with a weekly newsletter and a new bi-monthly digital magazine that covers the high-performance powerboating world. The former editor-in-chief of Sportboat magazine and editor at large of Powerboat magazine, Trulio has covered the go-fast powerboat world since 1995. Since joining boats.com in 2000, he has written more than 200 features and blogs.
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