DRIFT BOAT SAFETY!!!
By Montana Grant

Posted: August 23, 2018

Recently a family was drifting down the Yellowstone River and hit the bridge piling at Rt. 89 bridge. The boat flipped and dumped out the crew. Two members lost their lives. One victim was finally recovered near Springdale a few weeks later.

We all need to take a lesson from this terrible accident. Sometimes we get too relaxed when drifting. If alcohol is involved, reaction time and common sense are impaired. Any boating experience can turn into an adventure. Weather, obstructions, carelessness, or poor judgement can cost lives.

This boating accident highlighted a few concerns. The drowned victims were not wearing life vests, the boat was carrying 5 people and the bridge abutment was avoidable. We can play the blame game here but can’t change what happened. The boat hit the bridge and flipped. Control of the boat was at fault, life vests were not worn, and the boat was overloaded.  We all need to learn from this accident, so we never experience the sad outcome.

I once had a client set the hook on a big “Cutty” along the Yellowstone River. As he set the hook, he stepped out he back of the boat into 10 feet of moving river. Fortunately, he knew how to swim. I quickly rowed toward him and beached the boat. The other angler grabbed my safety throw rope, if needed. Fortunately, the wet angler swam to shallow water and walked onto the beach, where I netted his trout. He was all excited to catch a big fish, while I was distressed that the fish almost got him. I made him wear a life vest the rest of the day.

As a lifetime guide, I was responsible for my crew. If weather or water were at issue, life vests went on. If the angler could not swim, a life vest was not an option. Liability was always important and reinforced when considering safety.

Size matters when loading your boat. The heavier your boat, the less maneuverable and more dangerous things become. Hitting underwater rocks, reefs, and bridges is more likely with added weight. The boat has a Weight Limit warning on it. Know this and do not overload your craft.

Always know your limitations. Experience comes with time and challenges. Practice makes perfect. One tip that I was taught about rowing was to always “Row away from the Danger!” Backing upstream allows the oarsman control to direct and avoid the risk. If the water, or weather, becomes too windy, rough, or dangerous, beach the boat and wait out the storm.

The most important things you learn are the things you learn, after you already know everything!

BE BOAT SAFE!!!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, go with flow at www.montanagrantfishing.com.