Though we are a little over a week away from Memorial Day, more and more people are headed to the water, compliments of this warm weather. Fishing from the shore, fishing from a boat, boating and walking along the beach are just a few of the activities taking place. Sadly, there have been drowning cases this early in the season. Therefore, I think it prudent to write about water safety.
Where children are concerned, parental supervision is an absolute necessity when water is in play. Just like cooking requires our full attention, so does watching children around water. This is not a time to be “glued” to your phone. Distractions that pull you away for even a second may be all that is necessary for a child to get in trouble.
Boater safety begins with the boat being water worthy, or ready for the water. Before you ever get to the water, find out what the condition of your trailer is. Are you the type of boat owner that does no maintenance on anything, runs it until it breaks and then complains because you are broken down? Your trailer and your boat require preventative maintenance. The boat should not be taking on water just because it is sitting in the water. The next piece is boat equipment. Lifejackets, “throwable” life preserver, fire extinguisher, properly working bilge pump, running lights, anchor, proper licensing and registration and a properly operating kill switch are all important.
The next component is a qualified captain, whether on a john boat or a cruise liner. The boat operator must understand the “rules of the road.” It is important the boat operator understand the capabilities of the boat. Speed is as dangerous on the water as it is on the highway. Most importantly, the boat operator must always be sober. It is against the law to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol.
Weather changes can turn a good day into a bad day very quickly. I have shared this story before, but I think it is a good time to share it again. The day started with calm winds, so two men decided to take a john boat on a fishing trip in Pamlico Sound. I was stationed at the Coast Guard Station at Hatteras Inlet. We had been towing a boat we picked up near Diamond Shoals. It was a gorgeous day. The moment we docked the disabled boat at Hatteras Harbor Marina, the wind went from calm to 40 knots. We went back to the station and ate our dinner. I know it was dark when we were dispatched for an overdue fishing boat in Pamlico Sound. Because of the wind, we decided to take the 44-foot motor lifeboat. We headed out on Rollinson Channel, battling 15-foot seas in Pamlico Sound, no less. The Pamlico has a controlling depth of 20 feet, so this was a rare phenomenon. We searched for three days before finding one man and a Coast Guard helicopter found the other. The two men lost their life when a flat, calm Pamlico became a raging torrent, all in a matter of moments. Both men had their lifejackets on when we found them. You need to be aware of the weather and know that the weather can change quickly. Always make sure that someone knows where you are going and when you plan to be back.
If you cannot swim, you must take every precaution possible to prevent from accidentally falling into the water. Wearing a lifejacket, whether on a boat or standing on the shore, is important. Swimming lessons are beneficial, especially for young children, but there are many adults who cannot swim. If you are with someone who falls in the water, the sequence of helping someone is to: throw, tow, row, and only then go. If you cannot swim, then you cannot go. Would-be rescuers have become victims because they tried to help a drowning person.
The season is early, but warm weather causes the water to become more inviting. Water temperatures are still cold. Make sure that you know your limitations or inabilities, especially if you want to enjoy the water.
I hope that you have a great spring and summer. Just be careful on the water.