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Updated: 03/14/2014 08:00:03AM

Winter boating has its dangers

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Bill Hempel

By Bill Hempel

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Recreational boating is often referred to as “Pleasure boating.” If a captain is not extra alert, winter boating can quickly change the word pleasure to disaster. If a boater were to steal a line from Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” it might be “Running aground, hypothermia, and carbon monoxide poisoning, OH MY!”

The low winter tides make some of our usual short-cuts across marked channels impossible. It’s interesting to look at the water from local bridges and see many of the shoals defined as they raise their usually submerged heads above the water. Some of the many canal inlets look like small rivers as banks of bottom now give them an unusual definition. All of these wondrous sites should cause a captain to be extra careful and reduce speed as well as appoint a lookout to watch the water color in anticipation of hidden dangers. You might not think it could happen to you, but if a huge cruise ship captain (recently in the news) can do it, so can you. When we think of hypothermia, we usually think of being in the water. This is not necessarily so. Hypothermia is a lowering of the body core temperature. This can happen when you are totally dry. The local weather reports usually give a temperature along with a much lower “wind chill factor.” When you’re cruising along at 15 knots or more, you’re creating a huge wind chill factor, and if you’re not wearing sufficient clothing, you can easily bring on the onset of hypothermia as the air temperature you are experiencing may be much lower than that of the water. A little shudder or shiver means that your body temperature is reaching a potentially dangerous level and you need to warm up, and quickly.

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