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Updated: 08/08/2014 08:17:18PM

BWF: As bad as BUI

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Bill Hempel

By Bill Hempel

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There has been a lot of news recently regarding BUI, or boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But there is little discussion of BWF, or boating while fatigued. The tragic death of a boater, and the resultant charges against the intoxicated captain, are a lose-lose for everyone. What most boaters don’t realize is that studies have shown the fatigue factor associated with a full day under the hot summer sun causes a lack of focus and concentration roughly equivalent to that of a person whose sobriety test shows them to be over the legal alcohol limit. Combine this factor with the glare of the sun off the water, and you have a potentially lethal combination. The FWC has increased its surveillance of potentially intoxicated boaters, but have no way to check for fatigue.

Fatigue can also contribute to confusion if and when a hazardous condition exists. If your life jackets, first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, and other safety gear are not stored in a visible and readily accessible place, a fatigued person may not be able to locate them quickly when they are desperately needed. So make certain that precious gear isn’t down in the galley or locked inside a hatch, but is readily accessible. Also be sure before heading out on the water you brief your crew on where the safety gear is stored, to double your chances of retrieving it when needed. Try to minimize your time in the direct sun, trade time at the helm with a crew member, and stay well hydrated to minimize the fatigue factor so you may be alert and safe.

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