BY SAM VAN CAMP
May 18-24 is National Safe Boating Week and this always comes up just ahead of the Memorial Day Weekend, which is the unofficial beginning of summer on many bodies of water.
Having spent all my life around water, I know that things can happen very quickly and a person can get in trouble very quickly. Water can take a person in a second and once a person has that first lung full of water, all bets are off the table no matter how experienced he or she is.
When I step into a boat my life vest is always on. If you have never gone out of a boat, then you really don’t know what to expect. What you can expect is the unexpected!
The boat doesn’t always end up close by and you don’t always go overboard and not get hit with something; what happens next depends on how quickly you react and whether or not you let yourself enter the panic mode.
I didn’t just start wearing my life vest every time I fish from a boat; I’ve done it for years. I’ve been asked for years whether or not I know how to swim.
I’ve swam since I was a kid but, respecting the water as I do along with being older and wiser now, I put my vest on knowing full well the consequences of being thrown out of a boat.
It is everyone’s expectation to surface and leisurely swim to shore or to simply grab on to the boat; that doesn’t always happen.
What if you get hit in the head by something such as an oar or hit your head on the side of the boat going out?
Will getting to safety be as simple as you think?
I believe trapping more than any one aspect of the outdoors gained my respect for water and its dangers.
Trapping in late fall and winter meant that every step had to be calculated at certain times or I would end up in water that was ice cold while also being a good distance from my vehicle. This happened to me a time or two and both were a great wake up call to the dangers of water.
You can avoid the panic of being thrown from a boat by simply wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest.
Events around water happen so quickly that there is seldom time to prepare for it, a good vest allows you to surface and know that you can either make it to shore or wait for the help you need.
This can quickly take you out of a panic life or death situation and give you the time to regain your senses and plan your next move. If the boat is close by it will allow you to gain access and hold on; it the bank is close you can go in that direction.
Many times you can dog paddle or side stroke to where you are going without the exertion of trying to swim out.
Make this summer a safe one by being prepared for whatever comes up around water. Be a survivor and not a statistic by wearing your life vest and not having it stored under your seat!
Sam Van Camp writes about the outdoors on Fridays and Sundays. Call him at 662-6559. Fax: 446-6648. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org