“Wearing a life jacket is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of wisdom.”
— Kelli Toth, Alaska Office of Boating Safety
My friend Sandy, and two of her friends decided to go to the beautiful George L. Smith State Park near Twin City.
If you haven’t been there, please make it a day trip. The park is 1,634 acres, the lake is 412 acres. The lake is covered with cypress trees. It has a historic covered bridge and old grist mill that can be toured. There are hiking and biking trails, canoe/kayak trails, eight cottages, and a campground for 24 tents or RVs.
Anyway, my friends rented a canoe from the park office. The park has a mandatory policy that renters must wear their life jacket at all times while on the water.
Sandy sat in the front of the canoe, her friends behind her. Personally, I do not recommend three in a canoe. When my wife and I first canoed, we almost ended up in divorce court. But through spending many weekends paddling down springfed rivers and creeks, we became a coordinated team.
Sandy and friends were far from shore, when suddenly the canoe flipped over. All three got thrown into the water, along with their gear and including her expensive camera with the SD card loaded with all her past photos. Wisely, they all had put on and properly secured their life jackets (PFDs). It was with great effort they hung on wherever they could find something to hold on to.
But then the canoe sank to the bottom. The thoughts of alligators, or rattlesnakes coming out of the cypress tree lined shore was another worry. Fortunately, about 100 yards away a fisherman in a small electric-motor-powered boat saw what happened and motored over. The boat was too small for all three to climb on board, so they clung alongside a the fisherman drove them all the way to shore.
Then, soaking wet they headed to the car to dry off,.
That’s when a lady walked up to the drenched and exhausted Sandy, and staring, asked: “How do you get your black pants so shiny, and sparkly?”
That made the wet drive home a little less miserable. And Sandy knows she and her friends would have drowned if they hadn’t put on the PFDs.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has established the SPLASH program. Supervise. Prevention. Life jacket. Arms-length. Swim lessons. Have a safety plan. It is an initiative to reduce water-related child deaths and injuries as an all-encompassing water safety campaign. See Facebook: Splash GA or https://gadnrie.org And, here’s some final food for thought. The U.S. Coast Guard and Center of Disease Control annual statistics show last year there were 3,358 injuries, with 736 fatalities.
• 70 percent of boating accidents are caused by operator error
• Of the fatalities, 73 percent drowned, and 90 percent of them were NOT wearing their PFD. They had them but chose not to wear.
• Two-thirds of the fatalities were good swimmers
• 9 of 10 of the fatalities were on inland waters, not the ocean.
So be wise, always use your PFD.
Mitchell, who is retired Navy, writes an occasional fishing column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.