A boat overload can equal serious consequences

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 5, 2003

The old TV series &uot;Miami Vice&uot; is one of my favorite shows. Besides the usual &uot;police drama&uot; things, the show usually had at least one boat scene. There were chases, getaways and on a few occasions the Coast Guard got involved. The two detectives, Crockett and Tubbs, always drove the latest high-speed boats. In fact, for most of the show any time a boat was involved there were two speeds: all stop, and all ahead flank. You can get away with that type of operation only on television or in the movies.

Watching a recent rerun got me thinking about an issue that I haven’t discussed in this column. Usually, only Crockett and/or Tubbs rode their vessel. I never saw them once &uot;overload&uot; a vessel with an out-sized engine or too much gear.

The issue I’d like to discuss today is how to avoid overloading a boat. Overloading your boat can lead to capsizing or swamping the nautical vessel. The danger may not be seen until you are in a situation requiring quick maneuvering and the vessel cannot respond appropriately.

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One type of overload is placing an over-sized motor on a small vessel, or in other words, exceeding the recommended engine size for the type and size boat you have. This might happen if you decide to &uot;downside&uot; your boat, but plan to keep the motor from the old boat to use on the new one. It is not a violation of Coast Guard regulations to install or use an engine larger than specified on the capacity label, but there may be state regulations that prohibit it and/or restrictions from your own insurance company.

Another way to overload your boat is to place too much gear or too many passengers on the vessel. There are no Coast Guard regulations against exceeding the safe loading capacity, but there may be State regulations or restrictions from your insurance company . There is also a Coast Guard regulation that gives Coast Guard Boarding Officers the power to terminate the use of a boat (send it back to shore) if, in the judgment of the Boarding Officer, the boat is overloaded. There is no federal fine for this, unless the operator refuses the Boarding Officer’s order. Exceeding the safe loading capacity, like installing an over-sized motor, significantly reduces the responsiveness and handling ability of the vessel, and can lead to capsizing or swamping of the boat.

Take this advice and double-check the recommended engine capacity for your boat. Make sure the motor or engine in place is right for your vessel. Before you head out on your next trip, note the safe loading capacity and load your boat accordingly. Boat smart – don’t overload your boat.

NOTE: The Coast Guard Capacity Information label is required only on monohull boats less than 20 feet in length. The label is not required on multi-hull boats, pontoon boats (catamarans), or on any sailboats, canoes, kayaks, or inflatable boats, regardless of length.

LCDR DiRenzo is a resident of Suffolk and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.