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
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
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.