South Snohomish County has numerous lakes and rivers popular for non-motorized water sports, such as canoeing, paddle boarding or even casual floating on a raft. But it’s easy to get in trouble, especially if the wind shifts and/or if you run into rough water.
Reader Jerry Wabey shared an experience recently on Lake Ballinger, when he and his wife were out on their Hobicat with pedals and saw two boys in trouble on a Pink Flamingo raft.
“The wind had come up and they were trying to get back to the (Ballinger) Park,” Wabey said, adding the boys “were going to be pushed into the south area of the lake with nothing but deep woods.”
Betsy Robertson of The American Red Cross Northwest Region recommends that everyone wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket “when on a boat and if in a situation beyond your skill level.”
Some other tips:
- Life jackets are not just important to wear on a motorboat when you may be traveling in deep water, they are important on non-motorboats, such as canoes.
- Canoes can tip over easily.
- Canoe spills often take place in water that has a swift current.
- It is very difficult to swim in rapids.
- Check the label to find out the size and user weight the life jacket is intended for.
- Make sure all straps, zippers, and ties are fastened. Tuck in any loose strap ends to avoid getting hung-up.
- Make sure the jacket fits just right. It should be snug.
- here should not be excess room above arm openings.
- The life jacket should not ride up over your chin or face.
- After most drownings from canoes or kayaks, life jackets are seen floating nearby — empty.
- Life jackets also offer extra protection if the water is cold.
Inflatable children’s toys and water wings can be fun, but they are no substitute for a life jacket and adult supervision, the Red Cross adds.
In addition, the Red Cross recommends the following:
- Check local weather reports and be aware of storm warnings.
- Develop a float plan and give it to a responsible person. The float plan should contain details about where the boat is going and how long it will be out. This is important because if the boat is delayed, becomes lost or encounters problems, someone can come to help.
- Giving a float plan to a responsible person or friend is just as important for a canoe or kayak trip as it is for a motorboat. Canoes or kayaks often travel in secluded or scenic sections of lakes or ponds where there may not be other people around to help.
The Red Cross also offers an online course for small craft safety: www.redcross.org/take-a-class/classes/small-craft-safety-canoeing-and-kayaking-online-content-only/02851765.html