Family Fishing 0028

Traveling across the lake on one of those bluebird days the hum of the engine is hypnotic.  The fishing pro is handling the driving chores.  His nephew riding in the front has his head down to prevent the wind from taking his hat off.

Suddenly there is a bump.  Had we hit a submerged rock?  Lying on the deck amid a pile of tackle boxes, I have the wind is knocked out of me.  “Are you alright?” asks the driver of the boat frantically.  Words cannot get out of my mouth in reply or a second or two.

Voices come from somewhere asking if everyone was OK.  A female voice asks “Why?”  Rising to where I can see what was going on, it appears we have struck another boat.  To add to the confusion the nephew is missing from the front of the boat along with his pedestal seat.

He is about 20 feet out, treading water and his pedestal seat is floating nearby.

We struck a boat in wide open water, on a clear day, and we had never seen it.  It was like one of those traffic accidents where someone emerges into an intersection without seeing an oncoming car.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.  Bruises and broken glasses were the major toll.  The boats were another thing.  Two perfectly good boats had holes in them and one had a smashed motor.  The last word from the insurance company is both boat are totaled.

That boating accident few years ago was my first.  Not only was it the first but it was the first one in which involved anyone I had personally known.  Water can be very dangerous and some common sense requires that the boater be careful with his actions on it.

The most common accidents are due to such things as overloading, sudden shifts in weight, or weather conditions.  Hypothermia or sudden loss of body heat due to a dunking into cold water is the contributing cause of most deaths from drowning that occur in the early season.  Hypothermia is a condition when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it.  The result is that the body core loses temperature and the victim may become a blue‑gray color with violent shivering.  One may have muscle spasms and even lose the use of arms and legs.

If dumped into water that is less than 70 degrees hypothermia will take place.  Get back into the boat as fast a possible to minimize the effects.  Thrashing around in cold water leads to exhaustion and swirling water draws heat from the body.  Once in the boat, do not drink alcohol or massage the body to treat hypothermia.  Keep the wet clothing on as it holds body heat like a diver’s wet suit.

Treatment of hypothermia involves getting heat back into the body to raise the temperature of the inner core.  Warm moist towels applied to the head and body are a good idea.  Hot water bottles inside a blanket are good.  On land if the victim is conscious, a hot bath is fine.

Skin to skin contact and mouth to mouth resuscitation will transfer heat to the victim.

Many victims of hypothermia will lose consciousness and may even appear to be dead.  Even if the victim has been under water for a considerable time and shows no signs of life, it is still sometimes possible to resuscitate them.  Begin CPR immediately and get the victim to a hospital as soon as possible.

Perhaps the best way to practice boating safety is to be prepared in advance.  This includes having good Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’s).  They very well may save your life.  If wearing a PFD and you fall into the water, do not try to swim to shore.  If you cannot get back in the boat then practice the heat escape lessening position (H.E.L.P.).  Cross your ankles, cross arms over your chest, craw knees to the chest, lean back and try to relax.  This fetal position, with the head out of the water reduces the body heat escape to the water by 50 percent.

Some other tips for boating safety include some common sense applications to the boat and motor.  One should make sure that all of the equipment is in tip top shape before going out.  Have some knowledgeable person go over the boat, motor and trailer.  Carry paddles, extra spark plugs, a tool kit, rope and an anchor.  In cold weather add deicer to the fuel.  Use the running lights and carry a sealed floating type flashlight.

On a more personal note, it is a good idea to carry some matches in a stay dry container.  It would be a good idea to have a change of clothes in a plastic bag tied into the boat.  The wearing of flotation clothes or PFD at all times is good sense.

Boating safety is no accident.  Always tell someone of your trip plans so they will know where to look for you if you fail to return on time.  If something unfortunate does happen, do not panic and use good common sense.  It would be a good idea to take a boat safety course in advance.  The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a Boating Safety Hotline at l‑800‑368‑5647 for more information about boat safety.  They will be happy to provide literature at no cost to the angler.

In addition, the Kalkomey Enterprise company has an online program of safety information sites with one called  It is a free service and very interesting.


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