How To Hang On In Rough Water


Well-known go-fast boat photographer Jay Nichols’ recent low-speed tumble, which left him with two fractured vertebrae, in a center console during the Boyne Thunder Poker Run in Michigan got me thinking about the perils of being a passenger when the water gets rough. The question of how to hang on in nasty conditions, especially if you don’t have your own bolster or—in the case of most catamarans—bucket seat, is a good one.

As it happens, I have a bit of experience as a passenger. During my 15 years at Powerboat magazine I was involved in testing more than 500 boats, and while I drove some of them for running photography, test drivers Bob Teague and John Tomlinson handled all the rest of the driving chores. That meant I was “meat in the seat,” the guy who guided them through test protocols, wrote down results in booklets—particularly fun in stupid-fast deckboats with zero protection from the wind—and generally tried to hang on for dear life when conditions got rough. And I’m happy to report that during all that boat testing the worst injuries I sustained were blisters between my thumb and forefinger.

Here are four basic things I learned:

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(Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images)