Sport Fishing - - EDITORIAL -

For a great many read­ers of this mag­a­zine, travers­ing in­lets is sim­ply a fact of life. In­shore an­glers, who fish in­side bays and es­tu­ar­ies, have no wor­ries about “cross­ing the bar.” Off­shore an­glers in some ar­eas, such as the Florida Keys, can head off­shore with­out ne­go­ti­at­ing an in­let.

But more of­ten, fish­ing off the coast means first trav­el­ing through an in­let — and of course, later in the day, head­ing back through it again.

On calm days, par­tic­u­larly with a flood­ing tide, that cross­ing should be a non-event. I’ve made many such cross­ings in in­lets with shal­low bars (the area where the ocean shal­lows up at the mouth of the in­let) where it was im­pos­si­ble to tell from water con­di­tions at what point we had crossed the bar.

But of course there’s the flip side, when that very same, smooth ac­com­mo­dat­ing sur­face has be­come a chaotic mael­strom of big, close-set break­ing waves that loom be­tween the ocean and home, when the tide is flow­ing out against build­ing af­ter­noon seas.

Wel­come to the world of ocean in­lets.

That world is the sub­ject of Sport Fish­ing Pa­cific Coast ed­i­tor Jim Hen­dricks’ ar­ti­cle in this is­sue, “Over the Bar.”

Of course not all in­lets have shal­low bars, and some are eas­ier to cross than oth­ers, but at the least, most can be­come tricky in cer­tain con­di­tions. And many have rep­u­ta­tions that have earned them great re­spect among savvy mariners.

The thrust of Hen­dricks’ fea­ture — as we ap­proach the an­nual Na­tional Safe Boat­ing Week, May 19-25 — is not to scare read­ers into avoid­ing in­lets, but to re­mind them of the dangers and how to be safe when mak­ing those es­sen­tial cross­ings.

The list of in­let do’s and don’ts is pretty straight­for­ward. Much of the ad­vice — and isn’t it al­ways the way? — comes down to ex­er­cis­ing com­mon sense and cau­tion.

If you Google “in­let boat­ing ac­ci­dent” or the like, you’ll find page af­ter page of re­ports from in­lets around the coun­try. But the fact is that most of these mishaps (or dis­as­ters) were avoid­able, start­ing with the boat. The smaller the boat, the more dif­fi­culty it’s go­ing to have get­ting through steep waves in an in­let. Yeah, that seems like a “duh!” yet no doubt U.S. Coast Guard records would con­firm how many of the boats cap­sized in in­lets were sim­ply too small to be where they were. (With those aboard in many cases, un­be­liev­ably, fail­ing to wear life vests.)

Com­mon sense and cau­tion should — but don’t al­ways — dic­tate that a helms­man be pa­tient and ob­ser­vant, stop­ping well away from the in­let at a sea buoy, to get a sense of wave pat­terns across the in­let, and where if need be he can sit out a low ebbing tide un­til the flood is un­der­way. And when the time is as right as it will be, he can adopt a slow and care­ful ap­proach. Re­ports sug­gest too many boaters fail to take their time, com­ing in faster than the waves; com­ing over the face of a large, steep wave can mean broach­ing or, worse, pitch­pol­ing down it.

The bot­tom line here is sim­ple: The ad­vice boaters need to pru­dently and safely cross in­lets is read­ily avail­able, in our fea­ture on page 86, but also on many web­sites, such as boat­, from print and in videos, and of course via the Coast Guard Aux­il­iary’s boat­ing-safety cour­ses.

If you don’t re­ally know this stuff, learn it. If you do know it, learn it again.

As co­me­dian Ron White said it: “You can’t fix stupid.” In­lets and ig­no­rance don’t mix.



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