Safety On The Water

Finally we are done with the 2014 ice age and we are now at the lake in a boat or on the shore enjoying the cool water and breezes. Winter is a distant memory. What do we need to do to have safe fun at the lakes this summer?

First, always have life jackets ready. Remember, a jacket doesn’t qualify for a boat unless it says its type and is a U.S. Coast Guard Approved. For the little ones, those fun swimmer jackets or “floaties” are okay near the beach or pool, but only with the added ingredients of love and very vigilant adult supervision. In a boat children need appropriate, properly fitting life jackets just like everyone else.

When swimming from a boat the risk is greater and the demands for safety increase. Use an anchor and line to keep the boat from drifting away with the wind while everyone is enjoying the water. Few people can swim as fast as a drifting boat in the light breeze. A swim ladder either permanently mounted or hooked over the gunwale is a big asset. Boats can be difficult to climb back into from the water. A retrieval strap such as a simple dock line can be used to lift a person from the water. If you think you can just reach over and drag them in, better rethink it. Can you dead lift 150 pounds from an awkward position? Probably not.

Here’s how to use a line:

1 – Bring the victim to the side of the boat and face them away from the boat if unconscious or face them to the boat if the victim can help.
2 – Place the retrieval line under the arms and across the chest.
3 – Bounce them in the water a few times and then pull them in the boat on the up-bounce. This way the water is assisting and not pulling backward. With two people on the line it is even easier.
4 – Two people may also be able to lift the person by each placing a hand under the person’s armpit. If the person is wearing a life jacket, then grasping the jacket at the shoulders may be another way to bring them aboard. This is a fun drill for the family to practice while out swimming.
Lastly, to help ensure a safe outing, bring plenty of water, hats for shade and sunscreen. The effects of drinking alcohol, even in moderation, are increased in the sun and can also contribute to dehydration. Don’t forget to keep babies shaded as much as possible since their skin is so sensitive.

Remember to have fun but know the risks and avoid them by being prepared and acting responsibly. For more information on a fun safe summer on the water contact the local USCG Auxiliary at or contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.