With unusually warm weather this month, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning boaters and waterfowl hunters to not to let their guard down.
So far this fall, four people have died during the late boating season.
“All boaters need to remember they must wear a personal floatation device,” said DNR Conservation Officer Capt. Greg Salo. “Low water levels are exposing several hazards – rocks, low wing dams, stumps, etc. Operators and passengers can be easily thrown overboard after coming into contact with one of these hazards.”
While air temperatures are mild, the cold water can prove dangerous, or even deadly, especially if people don’t consider the consequences of cold water shock and hypothermia that can result from falling into water at this time of year, Salo said.
Waterfowl hunters must also wear a personal floating device (PFD). While some hunters find it uncomfortable to wear PFDs while hunting, Salo said, “camo float coats are a good option for hunters but they must be properly worn and zipped to count as a PFD.”
The DNR recommends these safety tips for late season boaters:
Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket; even good swimmers need to wear one.
Don’t go out in any boat after drinking alcohol; the effects of alcohol are more dramatic while balancing in a boat than while standing on dry land.
Don’t go boating alone; boating safety increases with numbers.
Don’t overload the boat.
Keep an eye on the weather and go to shore if the wind picks up.
Tell someone about trip plans and when to call 911 if not back at a certain time.
If boat becomes swamped or capsizes, stay with it if possible and await rescue, because most boats will continue to float, even after capsizing and filling with water. Drowning often occurs when the victim tries to swim to shore rather than face the embarrassment of being rescued.
For more information on boating and water safety, visit the DNR website, http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/boatwater/index.html.