Ensure boating season is a safe one
March 31, 2003
It is not too early to issue reminders about boating safety. Just yesterday the Coast Guard had to rescue a disabled boat drifting off Tahoe Keys.
Lake Tahoe is no ordinary lake. Calm waters can turn deadly. Entire families have died because they were not prepared for the unexpected.
It can be deceiving to those who are unfamiliar with our pond of blue. On days when the water is smooth as glass, beckoning skiers and other water enthusiasts, there is no telling what is in store. Hours later it can resemble a rollicking ocean.
Wind currents in the Lake Tahoe Basin can churn up the water like a washing machine in full tilt.
People in watercraft need to respect any body of water, but a special reverence needs to be had when it comes to Tahoe. No matter how warm the air is, the water will still be frigid. It does not take long for hypothermia to set in.
Life jackets are a must. The Coast Guard has different categories for jackets, and not all vests are approved by the guard.
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In December the Life Jacket Rule went into effect. It requires those under 13 to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket while onboard a recreational craft. The exception is when the children are below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
For each child without a jacket the operator of the boat can be fined up to $1,100. One would think a child’s life is more important than the cost of the fine. Protecting children should be more important than giving into their complaints about any discomfort, awkwardness or insistence they are good swimmers.
July is when most fatalities occur on the water — between 1999-2002 there were an average of 157 deaths that month.
Most states have their own requirements when it comes to what age to wear a life jacket, boating under the influence laws and safety requirements.
It is not just people in motor boats who need to adhere to the rules of the water ways. Sailboats, sailboarders, people on personal water craft, in kayaks — they all need to play it safe.
Some things that saved the couple who were adrift on Sunday were having a cell phone — they were able to call the Coast Guard; fire extinguishers — good for putting out engine fires; life jackets — just in case they needed to abandon the vessel; a horn — which can used to attract the attention of other boaters.
Paying attention to the weather, having a marine radio, a global positioning system, first aid kit, maps of the lake — they all could be the difference between life and death. Be sure to tell someone when you expect to return so a search and rescue can be started before a recovery is necessary.