From the Boathouse: Unprepared boaters risk lives, cost money


I constantly remind boaters to double-check safety equipment before they leave the dock, and I end my columns with "Please be boat smart and boat safe." Yet, we still share the waterways with ill-prepared skippers and those with the Goofy-goes-sailing syndrome.

A perfect example of a Goofy-goes-sailing boater occurred this week. According to KTTV, NBC4 and a source of mine in the Coast Guard, a man and two female guests decided to leave Avalon Harbor about 8 p.m. Sunday aboard a little 17-foot runabout heading to King Harbor in Redondo Beach. The vessel was not equipped with any signaling flares or devices as required, or a marine band VHF radio or handheld radio.

The only means of communication was a cellphone with an almost dead battery. To make matters worse, the engine stopped working somewhere off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. As you can probably guess, the cellphone's battery died while the operator was reporting to the dispatcher that the engine was not working.

Furthermore, I doubt that the owner is a member of one of the commercial towing services, so who did he think would tow him back to the marina anyway?

A multiagency search began for three people floating in the ocean between Avalon and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Goofy went sailing, because who leaves at night in a small boat heading to the mainland in Sunday's sea conditions in the San Pedro Channel without any means of navigation, communication or signaling?

The search continued until another recreational boater spotted the drifting craft the next morning. Handheld flares, a working VHF radio or a charged cellphone, if it could get a signal, would have ended this story quickly. I shudder at how much this search cost taxpayers — simply because the operator did not prepare for a voyage across the San Pedro Channel.

I think the Coast Guard should seriously consider citing the operator, who put not only his life in peril but also the lives of his two guests. Additionally, he should be cited for not having the required safety equipment. What was he thinking?

Please think before you venture out into the Pacific Ocean, and plan before you leave the dock to know what you will do if you need assistance.

We will have pleasant summertime weather along the coast this weekend, with sunny skies in the afternoons and patchy fog in the mornings that will burn off by noontime. Daytime temperatures will remain comfortable in the 70s, with the nighttime air dipping into the 60s. The temperatures will be much higher inland, to the high 80s to low 90s.

The Pacific Ocean will remain mild with a westerly swell at 1 to 2 feet and a south swell at 2 feet. The afternoon winds will gust from 10 knots to under 15 knots, which will make the sailors happy. The gusting winds will create only 2-foot wind waves.

Point Conception will have lighter winds than last weekend's, gusting to only 15 knots. The winds are predicted to be from the northwest to the west-northwest at 10 knots. Wind waves will average 2 feet and are expected to top out at 3 feet with the gusts.

Seas remain mixed with 5 feet from the northwest combined with a south swell at 2 feet. This is a potential weather window for those planning to head uphill (northbound) this weekend, but travel around the point in the early morning hours. It's fine to go downhill, but you will have to determine if conditions are safe for you, your crew and your boat.

As always, just keep an eye to the weather for any changes. Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on a syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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