Washington Boat Safety: Navigating Around Bridges And Dams
This week we covered the story of a couple that was injured in a Lake Washington boating accident when they failed to navigate under the Highway 520 floating bridge. One person suffered serious injuries in the boat crash, which left the vessel jammed under the bridge.
Unfortunately, many boating accidents involve bridges, dams, and other water structures that make navigation difficult, and it is vitally important that those on the boat are familiar both with how to maneuver the boat and with how to deal with obstacles in a safe and effective manner. Running aground or crashing into a bridge or dam can lead to significant property damage, serious injuries, and even fatalities.
When passing under a bridge in a boat or other water vessel, slow down and familiarize yourself with the area before proceeding. Understand that bridges obscure visibility and are often populated with others. Be sure to know the height of your boat in the water and look on the bridge for an indication of how high the water is and how wide and high the passage is. Keep in mind that debris can pile up around the base of a bridge – debris that can damage your boat or cause other problems. If you are approaching a draw bridge, contact the bridge operator in order to pass.
Dams are also a common hazard for Washington State boaters, with dam structures both large and small poising different threats to those in the water. Dams cause a change in the water currents surrounding the structure – currents that can either drag a boat over the dam or into the wall of the dam, depending on which side of the dam the boat is located. While large dams are often well-signed and off-limits to boaters, low-headed dams can be more difficult to spot and therefore more dangerous. Even smaller dams can trap your boat against the dam wall or even drag your boat (and you) under water.