All posts by John Underwood

About John Underwood

John Underwood currently serves on the National Boating Safety Advisory Council for the US Coast Guard. He is past chairman of the Marine Retailers Association of America. He owned Lockwood Marine for 20 years. For more info, click Contributors on the main menu.

Is the Right to Screw-up in the Bill of Rights?

Earlier in my life, I did a lot of business flying in small planes. The joke about flying being hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror can be alarmingly close to the truth. I lost a good friend and fellow pilot last week to an aircraft accident. He managed to save all his passengers with truly superior airmanship. His two engines quit one following the other shortly after takeoff. He touched down initially on a pond in a subdivision, because that was the best shot he had – maneuvering to miss a house with a family inside in the process. His son and co-pilot said he never uttered another word after the engines began deserting him. He just used his skills and knowledge in his few remaining moments to make a difficult best of a really bad situation. I would like to think I would have done as well, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

Pilots are granted by law a tremendous latitude in a flying emergency to try and save their aircraft and all aboard. That used to be the case on the waters, too. I fear that we may be letting that slip away. Continue reading Is the Right to Screw-up in the Bill of Rights?

If it’s broke, it’s broke. Fix what you can.

My father used to say that even selling nails was fun if you sold a lot. Many of us chose the boat business not only for a livelihood but to have fun even when sales weren’t over the top. It was certainly more fun when they were.

Recent financial events have taken the fun from even such a great endeavor as “messing about in boats.” We are all examining the question of how to get this fun back and at least stay alive financially until things improve. I have been a member of ABBRA (American Boat Builders and Repairers Association) as well as MRAA for virtually all of my career in the recreational marine industry. I have noticed that these boat yard guys get hit more gently when adversity overtakes the boat business, even though many are also dealers. That must be because real boaters continue to fix up and spruce up when they can’t (or won’t) afford a new boat. Continue reading If it’s broke, it’s broke. Fix what you can.

How much of safety is the boater’s responsibility, and how much is enough?

SwampedPhoto-eBy US Coast Guard statistics, in 2008 there were 4784 boating accidents, 3331 injuries (a record low), and 709 deaths. The same sources estimate 83.6 million Americans boating and 12.7 million boats registered at the state level. They speculate that there are between 4 and 25 million canoes, kayaks, etc. not registered. You do the math. Regardless of whether you choose accidents, injuries or deaths for the numerator and boaters or boats for the denominator, the incidence of mayhem is very small. Most of the results will have 7 zeros after the decimal point before you reach a real number in the percentage calculation. Our sport is pretty safe, and we can be very proud of that as industry professionals. Continue reading How much of safety is the boater’s responsibility, and how much is enough?