Betty Cook, chairman of the board of Kaama Marine Engineering, Inc. in Costa Mesa and a competitive power-boat driver, has a real interest in boating safety.
She recently delivered a series of seminars on safety at a boat show, and while traveling east read a suggestion that recreational boat operators should be licensed, particularly in view of growing popularity of high performance boats that can reach speeds of 100 m.p.h.
She recently wrote to me: "I had an opportunity to talk to the Boating Writer's Assn. on the possibility of their assuming more responsibility in addressing the problem of the dangers of inexperienced skippers operating, without training, these fast vessels.
"I've had a little experience in fast boats, and I am engaged in a business involved with high performance offshore boats. In addition, I care very much about knowledgeable people at sea."
Cook's team has won three national and two world offshore powerboat titles.
"In that sport there were accidents, injuries, yes, even deaths, and we were considered to be professionals," she wrote. "There were no schools to teach our trade. One merely bought a boat, paid an entry fee, complied with the rules laid down by the American Power Boat Assn. and went racing.
"Sailing schools, on the other hand, exist wherever there is water enough to clear the keel. I cannot envision a dealer in sailing craft handing over the certificate of ownership and walking away without some assurance that the buyer can handle his boat. Unfortunately, I fear this happens with power boat dealers more than I would like to think."
She believes, however, that licensing boat operators may present more problems than it would solve. Establishing testing criteria, administering tests and enforcing licensing would create reels of red tape and be expensive, she said.
Cook wrote that sales clerks must be knowledgeable about their product to the extent that they can do some of the preliminary instruction.
"This is what the boat will and will not do; this is how you must treat this creature; this is the skill you must learn. He (the sales clerk) is the last contact with the owner and can be very influential."