OLYMPIA – April 1, 2010 – Warm days in April mean it is boating, canoeing, water skiing, wakeboarding and fishing season. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission cautions boaters – particularly paddlers – to know their limits during this time of year, because Northwest weather and water conditions can still change with little warning.
“The same rules of safe boating apply to everyone, especially in small boats like kayaks, canoes and rafts,” said Mark Kenny, marine law enforcement specialist for State Parks. “You will know what the limits are for your boat by keeping these four basic rules of small-boat safety in mind before taking to the water.”
· Limit loading your boat. Don’t exceed the recommended weight shown on your boat’s capacity plate. Overloaded boats are much more likely to capsize. Too many people and too much equipment in a small, easy to capsize canoe or kayak is a recipe for a cold swim.
· Limit boating to safe weather and water conditions. Make sure to check the weather forecast before going out on a boat. Storms usually forecast themselves with rising winds and dark clouds. Don’t wait to head for shelter. The water temperature is unforgiving almost anywhere in Washington even on warm days. Most boating fatalities occur from capsizing and falling overboard. Cold water decreases the amount of time a person can swim or tread water, regardless of training or swimming ability. Because of the way a person reacts to an unexpected submersion following a capsizing or fall overboard, survival time may be limited to less than a minute in Washington’s waters.
· Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol quickly affects your judgment, balance and reactions, and its effects are more pronounced on water than on land, especially in a small boat.
· Limit your movement in the boat, and keep your weight low. Moving around or standing in a small boat increases the chance of capsizing or falling overboard.
“Remember that accidents happen even to experienced paddlers who know their limits,” said Kenny. “Experienced canoeists, kayakers and rafters always wear a life jacket because they know it’s their best insurance if they capsize and find themselves in the water.”
All boats are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket of the appropriate size in good condition for each person on board, and kids 12 years and younger are required to wear a life jacket on the open deck of any boat under 19 feet long.
Thousands of people enjoy paddling on Washington’s waterways each year. Unfortunately, Washington state is among the leaders in boating fatalities. So far in 2010, 22 people have died in boating-related accidents, and two of those who died were in a canoe, kayak or raft. From 2000 through 2009, 236 people have lost their lives in the waters of Washington state.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission thanks the public for supporting state parks. Donations made to State Parks through the vehicle license tab renewal program will keep state parks open in the 2009-2011 budget cycle, provided adequate revenues are collected. The Commission manages a diverse system of more than 100 state parks and recreation programs, including long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation. The 97-year-old park system will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013.