Boating Safety around Dredges

Now you see it. Now you don’t. Watch out for submerged pipeline.

This public service announcement paid for by the School of Hard Knocks. Please send this link to every boater you know. It could save a friend’s life.

Near Miss with Dredge

Today, I received yet another request to remind boaters about safety issues on the West Fork. A near miss prompted the request.

Dredging has attracted a higher than usual number of boaters.

In this incident, a boater zoomed up from behind a dredge at a high rate of speed just as the dredge was swinging a cutter head into his path. Luckily the man is OK, but he nearly decapitated himself on a cable.

While the San Jacinto may seem like a big river, it’s not – especially when numerous small boats are trying to maneuver around two 200-foot dredges, six booster pumps, 10 miles of 24″ pipeline, welding equipment, supply boats, cranes, backhoes, and support barges.

The Main Safety Dangers

When you see a dredge, remember that it’s there for a reason. The river is shallow. Watch out for:

  • Sand bars that the dredge is working on
  • Cables as the dredge swings its cutter head from side to side.
  • Submerged pipe
  • Backhoes that are rotating on pontoons

Common-Sense Precautions

Stay away. Boat somewhere else. If you must be on the West Fork:

  • Go slow around dredges, especially when coming from the rear.
  • Leave plenty of room between yourself and the dredge.
  • Stay as far from them as you can.
  • Remember: they have equipment that swings from side to side. It’s guided by cables that you may not see until it’s too late.
  • Make eye contact with the dredge’s operators. They’re focused on their work and not looking for you.
  • Don’t create a wake that will rock their boats, barges, pontoons or pipelines.
  • Don’t expect them to get out of your way; they can’t maneuver like you.

There’s never been anything quite like this on the river within the memory of most living people. Recreational boaters on Lake Houston just aren’t familiar with the safety protocols around such equipment. The easiest and safest thing is just to boat, canoe or kayak somewhere else.

Posted on October 21, 2018 by Bob Rehak

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