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How To Boat Safely at Any Speed
Marc Granet (left) and Scotty Begovich (right) have won multiple World Championships, and understand the importance of boating safely at any speed.
While idling through a no-wake zone, the tropical blue waters of Biscayne Bay look entirely unintimidating. Sure, there are dozens of other boats moving through the channels in every direction and large container ships being piloted into port just around the corner, but it all looks … manageable. Then Marc Granet hammers the throttles and everything changes.
Granet is one of the best boat drivers in the world. He steers Miss Geico, a 50-foot Victory catamaran with twin Mercury 1650 racing sterndrives, to speeds over 150 miles per hour next to other race boats running so close they’re almost touching. He’s won six world championships, set four world records and hit 210 mph. Today, he is taking us for a ride in the Geico Racing’s VIP boat, a Cigarette 38 Top Gun, to impart some important safety lessons all boaters can heed.
“We’ve seen it up close and personal,” he says, “that a great day on the water can turn into a bad day in one step.”
As the speedometer jumps to 80 mph and the Top Gun leapfrogs other boats in the channel in the blink of an eye, I quickly (no pun intended) realize I’d better pay attention.
Safety at Rest
We’re about to run out of the inlet, but the safety story actually started before we cast the lines at the marina. I couldn’t board the boat with Granet until his racing teammate, Scott Begovich (Miss Geico’s throttleman), threw me an inflatable life jacket.
“You’ll never see us on a boat without a life jacket on,” Granet says. “Sure we can swim, but what if you hit the water, what if you hit your head or hurt your arm?” Falling out of a boat at rest is one thing, but falling out at speed, you’re also in danger of hitting a prop or the side of the boat. At high speeds hitting the water the wrong way is not much different from hitting concrete. If you’re stunned or injured, a life jacket keeps you afloat.
While still safely tied to the dock, Granet and the Geico team walked through the boat and checked the engines, fluids, steering and batteries, making sure everything was as it should be before heading out. On race day this is of paramount importance, because even one minor malfunction could cost victory. Recreational boaters aspire to turnkey boating, in which you just jump in and go like you would the family car, but boats need way more TLC.
“If the hydraulic steering fluid is low and you didn’t check it,” Granet says, “you’ve already set in motion a situation that’s going to unfold on the water.” As we blast through the inlet into a four-foot head sea, I try not to think, if we lose steering, what situation might unfold.