ANNAPOLIS — One of the most likely ways to get killed or maimed on a boat is to ride on the front, or bow, U.S. Coast Guard officials warned while announcing a crackdown on the practice beginning Sunday.
Maryland officials also said they see cases of illegal bow riding on many types of vessels, especially pontoon boats and small fishing boats. Some boats are designed for bow riding and are not the problem, they noted.
Children are especially likely to bounce off the front of boats, Coast Guard officials said.
“It is a lot rougher on the bow than in the back of the boat,” Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Henise said speaking from his regional office in Portsmouth, Va.
“You might be a great boater, but the guy next to you hasn’t boated in five years,” Henise said describing a situation where one boat gets hit by another, or a careless boater cuts across the bow and creates turbulence that can dislodge someone riding on the bow.
Regardless of who is the culprit in such a case, the person riding on the bow is the one who may pay the price.
Even having on a life vest may not help the person who falls overboard, officials said, since the boat’s hull and the propeller can pose serious and immediate threats of injury.
Henise compared the practice of riding on the front of a boat to riding on a car’s hood.
“Would you put your child on the hood of your car and ride around?” he asked rhetorically.
The crackdown on bow riding, which will continue into September, will be throughout the Coast Guard’s 5th District, which spans from North Carolina to mid-New Jersey.
Coast Guard officials said they will stop boaters who appear to be in violation and caution them. Egregious violations may cause boaters to be charged with negligence, they said.
There are more than 1.6 million registered boats within the district, the Coast Guard said, and boaters often are unaware of the hazards associated with riding on the front of a vessel not equipped with the proper seats, railings and non-skid decks.
Locally, Maryland Natural Resource Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Albert said bow riding poses special problems on some kinds of watercraft.
“When the issue comes up, it is in the closed boats (with small foredecks), or the center-console boats with a very small platform on the front,” Albert said.
“It is common on pontoon boats, and there is no way you can stop if somebody goes off the front, before the prop will hit them,” Albert said.
National Resources Police are in the process of stepping up their efforts to stop boaters who appear to be operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The drive to curtail impaired boaters will go through at least Labor Day, Albert said.
Since Memorial Day, Natural Resource Police have received 5,500 calls for service including 150 boating accidents statewide, the department said.