I am writing this having just been notified of the death of Miami Marlins star pitcher, Jose Fernandez. Fernandez, along with two companions, died when the boat they were cruising struck the north jetty of Miami’s Government Cut in the wee hours of Sept 25, 2016.
It seems like a simple thing, this running of inlets. In reality, it may be the most dangerous bit of navigation boaters attempt.
I know that some of you disagree. After all, tens of thousands of boats transit coastal inlets on a weekly basis, mostly without incident. Boats today are well-built, and a select few, like the SeaVee in which Fernandez was cruising, are superbly crafted vessels that will take just about anything. Marine electronics and communications ensure instant and constant contact with the physical environment, plus weather, tide, and current information that our fathers would never have imagined. If, by chance, we do end up in trouble, we have beacons that call the rescuers to our location quickly, with the precision of satellites and GPS.
Despite all this wonderment, three young men died while boating.
We don’t know the cause of this tragedy yet: the investigation by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is ongoing. But the deaths have given me pause and cause to write this one reminder about running inlets. Running inlets requires experience and judgment that comes ONLY with time at the helm. Conditions change tide-to-tide, with changes in wind speed and direction and vary by what stage of the moon it is. Leave the inlet at 1PM and it may be a totally different body of water at 2:15.
Be careful. Wear lifejackets. Learn to time the waves. Stand off if need be. Get local knowledge from those who KNOW–hiring a well-regarded local captain to accompany you aboard your own boat if that is what it takes.
Almost every inlet along the coast has a bad reputation. Some worse than others.
I’ve been through most of them and can attest that these are all well-deserved.