Don’t get caught “up the creek without a paddle”
Boaters have been exploring Ohio’s rivers and streams by canoe and kayak since pre-historic times. Paddling is a great family activity, and Ohio’s rivers and streams provide a variety of opportunities for fun and enjoyment. ranging from slow, idyllic stretches to adrenaline-charged, swift water.
Regardless of the paddling activity chosen, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources says the following tips should always be taken into consideration for a safe, enjoyable trip:
• Always wear a personal flotation device. Even if just going a short distance, traveling in cold or swift-moving waters can be dangerous. A PFD will keep a person afloat should he or she fall in the water. While a wearable PFD for each passenger on board must only be carried in the boat, wearing it greatly decreases the chances of drowning. Remember that children less than 10 years of age must wear a properly sized life jacket when on boats less than 18 feet in length.
• Dress to prevent hypothermia. Regardless of the environment, cold water can kill. Hypothermia is the rapid loss of the body’s core temperature. In cold water, body heat is lost 25 times faster than in air of the same temperature. Dress in layers of clothing that will trap body heat even when wet. Polypropylene or wool are good materials for such conditions. Avoid 100 percent cotton fabrics.
• Never mix alcohol and boating. Alcohol impairs coordination and judgment – two things vital to a safe boating outing. Alcohol is a factor in many boating fatalities each year. Coast Guard studies show that intoxicated passengers are more at risk of death than are operators. Stay sober while boating.
• Always stay within the limit of the boat’s maximum carrying capacity. The boat’s capacity plate gives the maximum number of persons and the maximum weight of the equipment and gear on board that the boat can safely accommodate. Overloading is a leading cause of capsizes of small boats.
• Should an immersion occur, try to get out of the water as quickly as possible. Do not try to remove clothing or shoes. Air trapped between layers of clothing will aid, not hinder in keeping a person afloat and also protect from direct exposure to cold water.
• Know your abilities. Do not attempt to navigate a swift-moving river or stream if you have not had previous training. Fast water is extremely powerful: what looks like a fun ride could be deadly. Always paddle with more than one experienced boater in your group so that if trouble occurs, help is nearby.
• Carry a rescue throw bag with sufficient line. Rivers often have a strong current which could carry a boat into danger. Be prepared to help other boats on the water should they be in need.
• Watch for river hazards. Be alert for river characteristics that could cause harm to your boat or persons on board. Strainers, such as fallen tree limbs, which “strain” the water through while pinning solid objects, large tree trunks and low-head dams are all hazards which should be avoided. Learn to recognize low-head dams from the water. Never fish, wade or boat too close to the face of the dam.