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Boating safety especially important in winter

Posted: January 25, 2012 - 12:09am  |  Updated: January 25, 2012 - 4:32am
James McMenamin, FSO-PA FL 070-02-01, Leadership Academy Savannah, GA March 2010
James McMenamin, FSO-PA FL 070-02-01, Leadership Academy Savannah, GA March 2010

Our local weather has run the full range from unseasonably warm to a sudden cold snap. However, the water at the lake does not change as fast.

The water temperature is generally warmer than the air above it in the winter and cooler in the summer. As of this writing, the water temperature was 53 degrees and about 10 feet below full pool of 330 feet.

What this really means is that the water level on which we boat is going down and the bottom coming up. Trees, islands and all other debris are closer to the surface. This, of course, is not news. The current danger, and it will last until late into the spring, is very cold water temperatures.

There is no place on the lake where a boater cannot see land all around. This often gives a boater or fisherman a sense of security that does not exist. Even if you think you are a great swimmer, it is a long way to dry land on a possible uninhabited portion of the lake. If you’re in heavy, wet clothing – coveralls and boots, for example – these will fill with cold water and at best slow you down, causing you to spend more time in the water. Removing your clothing and depending on your life jacket will ease the swim time, but gives no exposure protection.

Your life jacket is the most important piece of gear in your boat, but only if you wear it. Many fishermen are alone when out on the lake, so they need to wear a life jacket from the time they hit the boat ramp until they have completely removed their boat from the water or are leaving the dock for the day.

Do a float plan; tell someone where you are going and when you are expected to return. If fishing after sunset, ensure your boat is equipped with the proper lights. Have a full charge on your cell phone; they will work on most areas of the lake. Have emergency signaling devices aboard, including flares or similar items, a good flashlight and a sturdy oar. Be safe on the water in all seasons.

 

James McMenamin is vice flotilla commander of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 21.

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