Extended tiller leads to an extended swim

Narrative

On a december day the master of a 3.6 metre open runabout went fishing. The weather conditions were ideal; a light breeze, the water was calm and good visibility.

Due to his advanced age and reduced mobility the master was in the habit of sitting in the centre of the vessel for stability and comfort. He used a piece of PVC pipe to extend the handle of the tiller on the outboard motor located aft so it could be steered from the centre of the vessel.

While steering the vessel in this manner, the PVC pipe came loose and the outboard motor swung freely, resulting in the vessel veering into the path of an oncoming motor cruiser. A collision occurred, and the motor cruiser drove over the top of the runabout. The master of the runabout was thrown into the water, but was rescued and taken to hospital by ambulance, and was lucky not to suffer any serious injury.

Lessons learned

  1. This incident shows that a common practice can one day come back and bite you. The master of any vessel is responsible for conducting a risk assessment on every occasion. The safest attitude to adopt is “What if something goes wrong?” not “As if anything will go wrong.”
  2. Masters of vessels need to ensure that they control their vessels by the steering that exists on the vessel and not modify them in anyway that will cause danger to persons or property.
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