The Chaos Is Real – Soundings Online

Steve Morlock has been working on the water for about 40 years in roles that range from harbormaster to his job of the past 12 years, running TowBoatU.S. out of Oyster Bay on New York’s Long Island. In all that time, he’s seen plenty of things go wrong for all kinds of people aboard just about every type of boat. But he’s never seen anything like summer 2020.

“It’s like Fourth of July every weekend,” he says. “When I pull alongside somebody who’s in trouble, it seems like I’m hearing it every day. ‘Oh, I just bought this boat.’ Or, ‘I’ve never had a boat before.’ My head has to be on a swivel. On more than one occasion this year, I’ve had to stop and reverse and hit my horn, with people coming right at me.”

Experts from New England to the Midwest and the South say similar scenes are playing out all across the United States as an unprecedented influx of new boaters takes to the waterways. With the Covid-19 pandemic keeping people close to home and encouraging outdoor, socially distanced activities, boating has become the
nation’s new favorite pastime—and the newest source of challenges for experienced boaters and first responders just trying to stay safe while out on the water.

It’s too soon to have a full picture of statistics related to boating
accidents and injuries nationwide for summer 2020, but as of mid-
July, the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety was projecting a 30 percent jump in on-the-water incidents along with a 4 percent increase in deaths versus 2019.

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