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PUBLISHED: 9:15 AM on Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Hunters, Anglers, Scuba Divers and more
Non-traditional boaters - who don't even know it

Every year, in some part of this country, you'll read a newspaper headline about a hunter, or angler or scuba diver who has gotten into trouble while participating in their sport on or around water.

The duck hunter who went to the marsh in search of game; The fisherman who takes the rowboat into the middle of the lake, and the scuba diver who pops up in the middle of the channel, only to get hit by a passing boat.

All of these examples could be prevented if we, the traditional boater, reached out to these people who are not traditional boaters. We, as a sport have begun to include paddle boaters (kayakers, canoeists and other self-propelled boats) among the definition of boaters. They themselves have also begun to believe (regardless that the law tells them they are boaters) that they are boaters.

But to the hunter, the angler and the scuba diver (and the myriad of other recreational water users), they are not boaters. They may use the medium of the water, the lake, the river, the ocean and the bay, but they are not boaters. They are, in their perception, which makes it their reality the sportsman, but not a boater.

Perception is Reality - or is it?

Is perception really reality. One could argue that it is, because what is reality? One could say reality is what you make of it, such as life. But is your life so good or so bad? It depends on what you believe you know, or are accustomed to. But even if you think you were accustomed to something, were you really?

But this article is not here to wax philosophic, it's here to encourage you to reach out to your friends and change that perception that can and will someday put them into harms' way.

It's up to you, because odds will have it, that those who are the hunter, angler, scuba diver and other water user won't be reading this article, because they are suffering with perception and reality problems.

So, "Your job, Mr. Phelps is to..." which was the popular line from the 1960 TV show "Mission Impossible" is apropos here. We as a community of boaters need to change perceptions. Change is never easy, but it is extremely important that we begin that process here. Lives are in danger!

Making the Leap of Faith

How do you go about and convince your friends and loved-ones that they are boaters, just like you? It's not an easy question to answer.

You have many hurdles, many misconceptions, industry norms and mores to overcome. More importantly, you have years of inculcation to chip away at. So here is a short list, by no means complete and some of the ideas may not even work.

But if you don't start trying now, it may be that the consequences will be your reality.

• Take them with you to a safe boating class.

• Take them with you to a boat show.

• Go with them to a (fill-in the sport) show and identify things "boat".

• Quiz them on safe boating techniques and see if they know the answers.

• Show them the law in black and white (color is also helpful here).

The United Safe Boating Institute (www.usbi.org) located in Raleigh, NC, is an association that has as it members such organizations as the American Red Cross, US Sailing Association, The Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary, as well as the American Canoe Association among others; has a pamphlet that may be of interest. Called "Safe Boating Tips for Anglers, Hunters & Campers" it is available for download here: http://www.usbi.org/angler.pdf.Think about this. You can make a difference. In our lifetimes certain died in the wool practices have not only changed, but are now 180? from what they used to be. Remember driving your car while intoxicated. No more. Not fashionable, not chic, not tolerated.'

Boating while intoxicated. The practice is changing. Not fashionable, not chic and is no longer being tolerated. In fact, local law enforcement has this particular practice high up on its list of enforcements. The pressure is on, and in a few years, DWI and BWI will both be considered bad form, period.

So, if we can change this reality, then we can change the perception of our Hunters, Anglers and Scuba Divers and more that they are boaters, need to learn about safe boating, and practice being safe boaters for families and loved ones, for other boaters and more importantly themselves.

For more information about boating education, why not contact your local United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla (www.cgaux.org) by using our Flotilla Finder (http://www.cgaux.org/cgauxweb/getzip.html) or by contacting your local Coast Guard unit (www.uscg.mil).


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