Lake Tahoe water safety goes more than one way | Across the Universe | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe water safety goes more than one way | Across the Universe

Two summers ago, I hopped aboard my roommate’s boat, Mr. Thirsty (great name, by the way), and joined other friends for a day of fun in the sun on Lake Tahoe.

Eventually, we made our way south to meander through the Tahoe Keys Marina to fill up on gas. It was there I witnessed something I found to be rather remarkable, but not in a good way.

A visiting family of 10 or so was renting a pontoon, and I curiously watched as the dock attendant ran through various safety measures and instructions on how to operate the vessel.

It was clear to me that hardly anyone on board knew how to operate a motorized boat — at one point, a family member actually tried to lift open the hard plastic cover to its engine to place a cooler inside what he thought was a place for storage.

The attendant also was becoming flustered with a language barrier between her English and the family spokesperson’s broken version of the language. After some over-explaining of how to turn the boat off, how slow to go in wake zones, and where the life jackets were stowed, the spokesperson signed off on the waiver form, and the crew was on its way into open water.

I was a bit flabbergasted watching it all go down. I could tell the people had little clue what they were doing, yet, with the flick of a pen, a contract was made for a potentially life-threatening situation.

Luckily, there were no reports of boat accidents on the lake that day. But ever since, I’ve wondered here and there about such a practice from those in the summer rental business — whether with motorized or non-motorized watercraft — and how many times during a given summer someone doing the renting might think, even for a second, “this person has no clue what he or she is doing, I wonder if that’s a red flag?”

Last week, regional and national media picked up on the peculiar story of how a young man who identified himself only as “Morym” reportedly paid cash to rent a paddleboard from South Tahoe Standup Paddle, and did so without leaving a credit card, phone number or any other identifying information.

Hours later, he went missing, and many feared he’d drowned in Lake Tahoe’s chilly waters.

Luckily, as we reported Tuesday online, the story for Zbigniew (“Zibi”) Moryn ended happily, as he swam to shore, sans a life jacket, safely after he said a too-close Jet Ski forced him to bail due to the wake it caused.

Now, this “good news” is notwithstanding the man’s incredibly irresponsible decision after to skip town for Missouri instead of reporting the missing paddleboard.

In any event, I hope this incident that grabbed the attention of media as far away as the East Coast can serve as an important reminder for businesses on practicing due diligence (and having a good moral compass) — and for people that you can never be too safe.

Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. His ‘Across the Universe” columns are published Tuesdays at SierraSun.com. He may be reached for comment at kmacmillan@sierrasun.com.