Water Safety Reminder
Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind fishermen, boaters and water recreation enthusiasts to pay attention and use common sense when boating and using the waterways in northern Minnesota.
• Most deaths among boaters are caused by falls overboard and capsizing. In a small boat, resist the urge to stand up. If you must move around, keep your weight low and close to the center of the craft.
• Inspect and repair o0r replace defective or worn safety equipment IE: PFD’s, throwables, boat motors, boat and trailer lights, horns or whistles, fire extinguishers and trailer wheel bearings before hitting the lakes.
• Wear your personal flotation device (PFD or life jacket), especially in small boats. Approved PFDs are now stylish, comfortable and practical. Models are available for all ages and for various boating activities. Wearing your PFD is the best “life insurance” policy afloat. Children under 10 Years of age are require to wear a PFD at all times while on a boat in the water.
• Collisions with a second boat or another object don’t just happen. They are usually the result of inattention, fatigue, and a lack of knowledge about local water conditions.
• Keep an eye on the weather, especially on larger lakes such as Leech, Winnibigoshish, Lake of the Woods, or Superior. Obtain up-to-date weather information from a marine band radio, AM radio, or by simply watching the sky. (Summer storms in Minnesota usually come from the west and particularly from the southwest.)
• If you are caught in rough weather, put on your PFD, keep low in your boat and head for the closest shore. In heavy waves, your boat handles best when you head into the waves at an angle.
• Inflatable toys are no substitute for swimming skills. Learn how to swim. Know your swimming ability. Supervise youngsters around the water.
• If someone is in trouble in the water, use elementary rescue methods first, such as throwing something that floats to the victim. Only as a last resort should you ever enter the water to save someone, even then, take a buoyant object like a PFD with you.
• Before you leave on a boating or fishing trip, let someone know where you are going and when you will return. If you run into trouble, this will assist authorities in looking for you.
• Hypothermia (below normal body temperature) is an insidious killer that is involved in perhaps as many as one-half of Minnesota’s boating deaths each year. Immersion in cold water (less than 70˚F)
causes the body to lose heat faster than it can produce it, decreasing the body’s inner (core) temperature. This decrease can cause symptoms ranging from continual shivering, poor coordination, and numb hands and feet in moderate cases to hallucinations and eventual death in most extreme situations. Cold water robs body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, so if you
capsize or fall out of your boat, immediately attempt to reboard your craft. Most small boats if overturned, can be righted and bailed out. In fact, modern small craft
• Booze is bad news! Alcohol and drugs are involved in about one third of all boating fatalities. In fact, a Coast Guard study from a few years back showed that a boater who was legally intoxicated was 10 times more likely to become involved in a fatal accident than one who was sober. Alcohol also adversely affects vital body functions such as balance, coordination, vision and judgment. Combining the effects of cold water and alcohol can speed the onset of hypothermia (a dangerous cooling of the body’s inner temperature), causing even good swimmers to drown in minutes - often within a few yards of safety.
• Wearing your PFD will help protect you from hypothermia in several ways. It decreases the amount of movement necessary to remain afloat, and it also helps to insulate you from heat loss. A PFD will also keep you afloat if you become unconscious due to hypothermia.
• PROPELLER INJURIES- Each year, people are seriously injured and killed by being hit by a propeller. Be sure to turn off your motor any time people are in the water near your boat, especially near the stern. Never allow passengers to board or exit from the water when the motor is running. The prop may continue to turn even when the motor is in neutral, or someone could accidentally bump the shift lever. Stay away from other boats towing skiers or tubers. Never use reverse to pick someone up from the water, instead go around again. Don’t let them sit on the transom, gunwales or bow while underway, unless there are adequate railings to prevent falling overboard. Use the engine cut-off lanyard that came with your motor and consider installing propeller safety devices.
• THE “CIRCLE OF DEATH”- Every year, serious injuries and deaths occur when operators let go of the steering wheel or outboard steering handle while the boat is moving. A phenomenon called steering torque forces the motor to slam left causing the boat to swerve sharply to the right, throwing the victim into the water. The boat continues to travel in a circle and returns to strike the victim in the water, inflicting massive propeller wounds. Thus the term “circle of death.”
• The way to avoid circle of death accidents is to avoid letting go of the steering wheel or handle until the boat ceases all forward motion. If you notice that it takes extra pressure on the steering wheel or handle, have your boat serviced immediately. On some smaller outboards, repair may be as simple as tightening a bolt. For outboards and inboard-outboard craft, corrective measures may involve resetting the boat’s trim tab, the small fin mounted on the anti-ventilation or cavitation plate just behind the prop. If the motor is equipped with an automatic kill switch, be sure to fasten the lanyard to jacket or some article of clothing such as a belt loop. If you do fall out of your boat, the lanyard, which is attached to the electrical system, disables the motor, keeping the boat from circling back to hit you.
• Be sure that clamp-on swivel seats are tightly secured and that seat backs are sturdy enough to support your weight.
Additional information about boating safety can be found at the following link: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/boatwater/index.html
Remember that a safe and enjoyable experience on the water is up to you.
Sheriff Phil Hodapp