Boat Driving Tips| Avoidance Manuvers
With the season well underway and all of us reacquainted and comfortable with our is rides, this a good time to review some defensive driving techniques. After all, you never know what situations you might encounter on me water. On my home lake, for example, after our annual spring thaw, there are numerous logs, pieces of docks and other dangerous flotsam hiding just under the surface. If you aren't careful, you can get quite a nasty surprise. A ruined gearcase or prop is the typical result, though you could also end up with a gashed hull or even get in an accident-none of which any of us want. Taunt rigging, a keen eye, knowledge of the boat's handling characteristics and fast reflexes can allow you to quickly and cleanly maneuver around these threats. When lake traffic multiplies, performance boat pilots need to slow down and exercise even more awareness and defensive driving skills, because the risks are far greater than simply hitting an underwater obstruction. Boats of all sizes and types, many with inexperienced drivers, may provide you with more than enough opportunities to exercise avoidance maneuvers. When it's crowded, keep your boat speed down until you're clear of other boaters. Trying co avoid an accident isn't the time to find out that your rig can't cum as sharply as need be without getting dramatically ouc of shape. You need to put in some practice time.
PRACTICE AND PREP
Practicing avoidance maneuvers isn't something to do on a busy lake with buddies aboard. On the other hand, it isn't wise to practice out on the lake alone. If something unfortunate does happen , you want someone around who's paying attention and is ready to help. One of the best ways to get some practice in is to gather some of your friends-with their boats-and practice avoidance maneuvers together. You can even experiment with some props and setups on your practice day. Before you hit the water for practice, be sure to set up your boat the way you normally run. Don't practice with a buddy aboard, but simulate his or her weight in the passenger seat by shifting some ballast to port. If you normally run with a full fuel tank, don't practice empty. Better yet, if you normally begin a day with a full tank and end it nearly empty, take the time to practice both ways. If you run with storage lockers full of gear, put it aboard. Position your friends nearby, on the water in their boats, as you make your practice runs. Don't have them run alongside, in case you make a mistake. Of course, check your rig as you (hopefully) do before you go out. Check the tighmess of the steering and engine mounts, trim bushings and stem/swivel bracket bushings. Check the foot throttle for correct throttle advance and complete return to idle position . When you leave the ramp, put on your life jacket and hook up your kill switch.
A HARD RIGHT
Don't be in a hurry once you're on the water. Take your time and warm up a bit. Accelerate to plane raising the trim a tad, then bring your boat speed up to about 40 mph. Roll the steering wheel back and forth to direct the boat's bow a few degrees left and right to get started Doing this also ensures that the steering is functioning correctly. To practice avoidance maneuvers, first start at lower speeds and trim angles, then work your way up. For example, begin at about 40 mph and mid-trim. While cruising at this speed, jerk the steering wheel suddenly to the right or left (practice both), then put it back straight again. Note the boat's response. Typically, the boat will turn hard, perhaps rock back and forth a bit, but will usually settle down quickly. After trying this a few times, raise the trim angle a bit more and perform the maneuver again (at the same speed). With rhe trim raised, the boat will tend ro rock more violently on the pad as you tum the wheel. The trick is to use the trim and steering simultaneously to get the hull to settle. To practice this move, anticipate the' the tum and apply negative (down) trim immediately as you crank the wheel. This is difficult to do and requires practice. It's important to learn not to immediately remove your foot from the throttle. That is the natural reaction, but you must learn to avoid it because chopping the throttle causes the boat to react sometimes violently. So, you need to practice three simultaneous moves-cranking the wheel, applying negative trim, and keeping your throttle foot steady. Sound tough? It is. Try it a few rimes and you'll find it's even more difficult than it sounds. Practice is the only way to make it feel somewhat natural. Boat rock will become even more pro nounced, and more difficult to control, as you increase boat speed and trim angle. After you get comfortable at slower speeds, cautiously move up into the 5Os and 60s. The hull will want to rock back and forth on the pad as you try to get it under control. ldeally, and after some practice, you'll be able to rum your boat at least 45 degrees in either direction at high rates of speed and trim angles to avoid hitting anything in your path withour losing control of your boat.
Practicing maneuvers like this doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to avoid hitting an object. You will know that given such a situation, however, you'll be familiar with what your boat tends to do when you change direction suddenly at high speeds and exaggerated trim angles. You'll know that trimming down, even slightly, will allow you to make these types of maneuvers more confidently. Most of all, this practice will give you a greater awareness of just how hard it is to make your boat change course suddenly, especially when traveling at high speeds. Remember, when conditions are questionable or the lake is crowded, it's most prudent to slow things down. You'll have more time to respond and avoidance maneuvers will be easier-or not necessary at all. John Tiger Jr