Supporters of Donald Trump who have taken to the lakes and waterways to hold boat parades honoring the former president are being hammered by fellow boaters and maritime experts for literally leaving destruction in their wake after swamping other boaters and damaging the environment.
According to a report from the Daily Beast's Jose Pagliery and Asawin Suebsaeng, the pro-Trump boat parades that the ex-president praised for showing massive support for his administration, infuriated other boaters with their lack of seamanship and disregard for other boaters.
As the report notes, even some supporters of the president were upset with what occurred while on the water.
Case in point, Tommy Gravelle, a seasoned boater who set sail on Tennessee's Old Hickory Lake on July 4th 2020, who lost his vessel due to the parade even though he wasn't participating.
"I'm a seasoned captain. I've been in big waves," Gravelle told Beast. "If I knew there'd be that big of waves, I would've never left the dock."
According to the report, "Rapidfire crests—waves that came in too fast for a simple pontoon boat to recover—overtook the front of the vessel. Seats got tossed into the water. The frothy foam nearly reached the captain's chair. Gravelle was about to scream for his family to abandon ship, but he decided to rev the engine, cut through the next swell, and turn around. The insurance company considered the vessel totaled and cut him a check."
"We got on the boat for a family day on the lake, and it ruined the whole day," he recalled. "It was unorganized really. I think these people all meant well, they didn't understand what was going on."
Gravelle's boating accident tied to a Trump boating rally was not an isolated incident.
"It's been a year since the Trump flotilla phenomenon swept through the nation's lakes and bays. Law enforcement agents, rally organizers, and boaters spoke to The Daily Beast about how these events often got out of control, causing more crashes and near-misses than previously known. In Tennessee alone, the state's database shows that Trump flotillas made up a third of all 'congested water' accidents there last year," the Beast report states. "National figures aren't available that identify events as Trump flotillas, but a state-by-state review of incident reports in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas showed that most accidents never made the news."
One Trump flotilla organizer admitted things got out of control once the parade began.
"Austin Collins, who organized one Trump flotilla on Sept. 12 at Oklahoma's Lake Tenkiller, said he set strict rules to keep boats close together, single file, and slow. But as the lake widened, boaters started speeding around each other. Those that went too fast turned around, creating wakes that bounced off the others," the report states with Collins confessing, "I was trying to prevent racing down the lake. It wasn't a race, it was a parade. I kept on my normal pace… I think most people just took off."
With the report noting a rally on Lake Travis in Texas last year resulted in five boats capsizing, Rob Crafa of the State University of New York's Maritime College, attempted to explain why chaos seems to follows the Trump rallies.
"When you have boat parades like rallies, the energy there creates a different vibe. People standing in parts of the boat where they're not supposed to, flags that may limit visibility for the operator of the boat, and if there's loud music, bright sun, maybe alcohol involved… all these factors contributed to dangerous situations," he suggested.
Captain David B. Mackey, a professor at the Mass Maritime Academy, was more succinct in his appraisal: "The bottom line here is, poor seamanship. If they're doing this and running around, they don't know what they're doing. Every boater is responsible for their own wake. If they do damage to another vessel, they're responsible. If they do damage to the shore, they're responsible."
The report goes on to note that, with Trump making rumblings about another presidential run, the boating rallies may start up again which has maritime experts worried.
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