Monday, October 8, 2012

Episode 131 (10-8-12): Dock Safety

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 8, 2012.

This week, we learn about an important, but sometimes overlooked, boating-safety issue—safety on a dock.  Boating safety usually focuses on what happens ON a boat, but the dock area also presents some definite risks, as was tragically seen in two child drownings around docks at Smith Mountain Lake in summer 2012.  Have a listen for a little over a minute to some dock-safety tips from two boating professionals on a windy September day at Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin, Virginia.


To recap and add to what Mr. Garrett and Mr. Hoffman mentioned, here’s a list of six key precautions that dock visitors should take:
Watch your children;
Wear properly-fitting life jackets;
Wear non-slip shoes;
Watch for things that can trip you, such as ropes or items left on the dock;
Watch for other potential hazards from dock structures, fuel handling, and electrical equipment; and
Obey posted rules, including no swimming around the dock and no alcohol.

If you’re going to a dock or marina for a boating excursion or just to enjoy the scenery, please remember that water safety starts at the shoreline.  Thanks to Johnny Garrett and Michael Hoffmann for their help with this week’s episode.


Marina at Claytor Lake State Park, Dublin, Virginia, 9/23/12.

Dock at marina in Claytor Lake State Park, 9/23/12.

Dock safety sign at marina in Claytor Lake State Park, 9/23/12.

Acknowledgments:  Thanks to Michael Hoffmann, Coast Guard Auxiliary at Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin, Virginia, and Johnny Garrett, boat-rentals concessionaire at the Claytor Lake State Park marina, for participating in this week’s audio and for help in compiling the list of dock-safety tips used in the recording.

Sources and More Information:
Here’s a more-detailed list of dock-safety tips from the National Safe Boating Council, accessed online (10/8/12) at, part of the Web site of Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas, which provides concessions and services for the National Park Service at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

*Wear PFD's [personal flotation devices, i.e., life jackets] while on the docks and working around your boat.  ESPECIALLY make sure that children are wearing properly-fitted PFD's.

*Don't swim in marina waters.  Boat maneuvering and movement is tough enough without having swimmers in the water, and there can also be dangerous stray currents in the water from improperly bonded electrical systems.

*Make sure you, your family members, and guests are wearing non-slip shoes anywhere on the marina premises, but especially around the docks and on your boat.

*Don't leave loose items lying around on the dock or in visible areas of your boat.  They could get kicked into the water, stolen, or present a tripping hazard.

*Be proactive about regular maintenance of your vessel, especially electrical and fuel systems.

*Use bio-degradable cleaning products when you wash your boat.

*If you leave your boat for any reason, turn off any portable heaters you may have on board.

*Never leave engine parts or oily rags around dock areas, and ventilate thoroughly before performing any work on your boat.

*You and your family are the eyes and ears of your marina neighborhood.  Don't be shy about telling marina staff about potential problems or hazards, such as weatherworn wiring or fixtures, spilled or leaking fuel, or lack of safety equipment like fire extinguishers, proper signage, and life rings.  (In “Guidelines for the Safe Operation and Maintenance of Marinas,” p. 16,  the National Water Safety Congress recommends that docks should have “at least one throw-type lifesaving device with 60 feet of 3/8-inch diameter rope attached, and/or a reach pole….  On docks more than 200 feet long, one device should be located every 200 feet along the dock.”)  

*On-board gasoline generators can leak fuel, short out, overheat, and can represent a significant carbon monoxide risk if not properly used and maintained.

*Practice a safe egress from your boat and from the dock in the event of fire.

Safety information for marina operators is available in “Guidelines for the Safe Operation and Maintenance of Marinas,” online by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at, as of 10/8/12.
For information on child drownings around docks at Smith Mountain Lake in summer 2012, and on how the Smith Mountain Lake Water Safety Council is focusing attention on safety around docks, see "Rescue workers devastated to find body of boy drowned in lake," Lynchburg News & Advance, 9/3/12; and "Safety group’s focus turns to drowning," Smith Mountain Eagle [Wirtz, Va.], 9/11/12.
"Crew member warns of dock safety in wake of sailor's drowning," Three Sheets Northwest, 11/30/11, emphasizes hazards caused by poor visibility at night, not wearing a PFD, alcohol, and not being familiar with any given dock.

Recent Virginia Water News
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Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.