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Boating with Care

Season Greetings. Itís spring! Under all this snow there are daffodils struggling to be free. Those daffodils are not alone; I bet your boat is down there too. As if on an archeological dig, we shovel the snow off our boats and get ready for another season on Lake Tahoe. Given the undeniable natural beauty of this area, summer in the Sierras is cherished, but short. We squeeze a whole boating season into a few weeks; boat engines are tuned, sails mended, fishing rods assembled, and safety gear checked?

Contrary to popular opinion, about one-half of all boating fatalities occur on lakes, ponds, and reservoirs not on the open sea. Over one-half of the fatalities occur on weekend afternoons. About one-half occur in calm weather and in full daylight. Boaters have one thing in common with motorists who do not buckle-up; 87% do not wear life jackets.

Most fatal boating accidents involve people who suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves in the water without life jackets. Their boats capsize, they fall overboard, or they collide with other boats or objects. Being able to swim is not sufficient protection if you find yourself in the water unexpectedly. Nearly 90% of people who lose their lives in boating accidents drown even though most of them are "swimmers."

Sadly, most fatal boating accidents involve people who have life jackets on board their boats but who are not wearing them. A life jacket aboard will not help you if you fall overboard without it and your boat floats away or if you canít reboard the boat. Landing in the water unexpectedly may be fatal. The shock of a sudden plunge into cold water disorients many people. Add to this cumbersome clothing, perhaps an injury from the fall and you have an invitation to drowning.

If you are wearing a life jacket when you unexpectedly land in the water, you increase your chances of surviving hypothermia. Hypothermia is a major concern on Lake Tahoe. It is a reduction of the bodyís internal temperature below where normal biological functions can occur. Hypothermia is not "freezing to death" nor is it frostbite. It can kill you at temperatures well above freezing. In hypothermia your body loses heat more rapidly than it can replenish it. Your life jacket besides trapping warm water between it and your body helps you stay afloat with minimal expenditure of energy. If you are not wearing a life jacket you may need to thread water to stay afloat; this uses energy and hastens hypothermia. Tests show that the average rate of heat loss of a person treading water is about 34% faster than the same person holding still in a life jacket.

Government agencies have decided to do for boaters what they have done for motorists who donít buckle up. There are federal and state laws requiring a life jacket or Personal Floatation Device (PFD) for each person on board. Children under six years of age (unless confined to a cabin or tethered to a sailboat) must be wearing a PFD while underway. Aside from the government regulations it is important to know with a little care you can assure yourself and your loved ones another season of summer fun.

Summer on Lake Tahoe is glorious and short. Iím already working on an article about storing your boat for winter. Take care this summer. I would like you to remain part of my readership.

 
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