Mark Kuchera sees boating safety in a new light. Having worked in a managerial position in the boating industry for years he has always put an emphasis on safety both in his own ventures and in on the water boat testings.
But a recent incident on Lake Conroe showed him that anyone can get complacent.
“A customer expressed interest in one of our boats. It was a Sportsman 214-an extremely well performing boat and one of the things I tell my customers when they are looking at our boats is that we need to get out on the water because everybody’s boat rides good when it’s smooth,” Kuchera said.
“They need to be able to see how the boat they want to get really performs.”
The customer took him up on the offer and said he had a 10-year-old 19-foot boat with a 90 horsepower motor on it.
“We picked a day and met out on Lake Conroe. It was really windy with south winds probably at 25 miles an hour,” Kuchera said.
“There were two foot whitecaps but that doesn’t scare me in that boat because it handles very well,” he added.
Kuchera put on his inflatable and asked the customer if he wanted to do the same before launching.
“We get off and we start going and are riding with the waves at that point. The boat is handling wonderfully. And we are going at around 50 miles per hour,” he said.
Again this a rough day with continually declining weather.
“The customer turns and starts going horizontal with the waves,” Kuchera said.
One of the waves pushes the boat hard to the right and when it does the customer overcorrects to the left and then the bow goes down and the boat is instantly pushed over.
“I held on as long as I could and then I’m in the water and my customer is in the water. The water is cool and the waves are pounding and it’s pretty scary there for a minute,” Kuchera said.
The customer who did not choose to wear a life jacket also did not attach the lanyard that kills the boat if an incident such as this were to occur. The boat kept on going as they huddled together realizing that even with one inflatable stuck in the middle of Lake Conroe they would be alright.
Eventually some anglers were coming in due to the weather conditions and picked them up and brought them over to the boat which was essentially unharmed on a bank with the motor running.
“I got in the boat and we were able to get it back to the dock with no issues,” Kuchera said.
At the time he didn’t know his shoulder was hurt but after visiting three different specialists it was determined he had rotator cuff damage.
It however could have been much worse.
Kuchera now says all points of safety are not only considered but enforced during boat demonstrations and he tells everyone within earshot to wear their life jacket and to attach the kill chord.
“Boaters should never assume because they have experience with one kind of boat that they can safely operate another. We should all slow down a little and focus on safety first and enjoy the amazing times that boats can help provide.”