True Stories: Cool Your Jets

May 2016 Issue
True StoriesIllustration: Chaz Russo

Have you ever been so excited about something that you completely forgot about some of the required preparation? Well, that’s exactly what happened to a few riders last summer in Austin, Texas. They set out for a maiden voyage on their newly rebuilt, 15-year-old family boat after it had been sitting dormant for a few years. They had been working ­tirelessly getting their vessel back into tip-top shape, both ­mechanically and cosmetically, so it was beautiful inside and out. As you can imagine, their excitement level was off the charts to see their boat back in the ­water and get to wakeboarding again. After charting out a glassy area, the first rider geared up and hopped in.

But as soon as the driver put the boat in gear, something went horribly wrong. Frantic, the rider climbed back into the boat, and the crew tried to diagnose the problem. Smoke was billowing out of the lockers at this point, and further investigation revealed bright orange flames. Naturally, the crew grabbed the fire extinguisher to put out the flames, but it was too late. The fire had become out of control. A call to abandon ship was ordered, and the crew gathered their precious cargo, including their dog, wakeboards, phones and wallets, before jumping overboard. Shortly ­after entering the water, a nearby fishing boat saw the commotion and brought them safely to shore, where they were left to watch helplessly as their family boat of 15 years went up in flames.

Although the official cause of the fire is unknown, the preventative safety-check measures had not been taken before getting on the water. Luckily, no one was hurt; it could have been much worse.

Let this be a lesson to us all: Routinely check your boat before you put it in the water — especially if it’s been sitting for a while. Here's a few quick steps to remember:

  1. Open the engine hatch and sniff the bilge smelling for fumes.
  2. Turn on the blower for 5 minutes.
  3. Make sure everybody is off the boat while this is happening.
  4. Do not run any other accessories until this is complete.
  5. After 5 minutes, board your crew, crank your tunes and head out.

A simple ­safety check could have prevented this day from turning tragic in a hurry. Go to wakeboarding​mag.com/boatingsafety for more information on how to prevent mishaps like these. Stay safe out there, folks!