Thread: Water Safety
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:53 AM
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Default Re: Water Safety

Shallow water can be just as dangerous as deep water. My wife was wading in a foot of water in August 2011. She slipped and broke her ankle. I couldn't move her from the middle of the stream (slippery rocks, fast current, and a long distance to shore), and after 15 minutes she was falling asleep!!! She wanted to lie down in the foot deep water, and have a nap. I later read that this is a common reaction to pain, with various chemicals being released to the brain. The fire company finally found us after 30 minutes, but it took them another 10-15 minutes to reach my wife. We had a clear view of the road, and the area was not remote at all. In fact, there were two fire stations less than 1 mile away, but the 911 dispatcher sent out a fire company from that was several miles away. I gave them our exact location, but they were having a tough time finding the streets.

We now carry signal whistles on our vests, use a wading staff whenever the bottom is slightly questionable, and try to avoid sketchy wading altogether. My wife was in a wheelchair for two months, after surgery to install a plate and screws on one bone, and install a large pin in the larger bone. She finished her physical therapy right after Christmas, and is about 95% of what she was prior to the slip. Taking care of her while she was in a wheelchair was the most difficult time of my life, especially when I had to wheel her to a stream for fishing (every weekend, and sometimes during the week).

I used to wade carefully, but now I've been educated in how little it takes to break bones. I've also learned that just because I know exactly where I'm at, that doesn't mean someone else will be able to find intersections, etc. Cell phones usually die when they get dunked, but mine didn't get wet that day.
A wading staff is a great aid, but not while it's in its sheath. We've been sailing since the 80's, and I most of the boaters I know don't wear PFD's, or even have them close at hand. Many boaters go out in questionable weather, thinking the Coast Guard will be there if they need help. The CG is good, but they have limited manpower. We lived at the beach through much of the 90's, and the Coast Guard isn't going to be there in an instant.

Bring some food and water along if you plan on wading out of sight of others. Also bring any medications you might need, and use a dry bag for your cell phone. A signal whistle and flashlight are always on our vests now, and we always wear a PFD while underway in the sailboat. A small Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) could save your life. I gave the 911 dispatcher directions from well-known intersections and roads down to a tenth of a mile (we fish this stream regularly, and she told me the fire chief wasn't familiar with those roads. These were heavily travelled roads that connected a few heavily populated towns, so I didn't get that at all. I was grateful when they arrived, and it took several firemen to carry my wife 400 yards upstream in the water, and then another 100 yards up a muddy hill. You can hope that help will arrive, but be prepared for delays. You also need to have the gear to call for help.

I'll state this again: My wife would have drowned in a foot of water if I wasn't there to hold her head up. The water doesn't have to be deep at all.

One more thing. Aquastealth and Vibram soles might offer good gripping power in some conditions, and be absolutely awful in others. My wife was wearing Aquastealth soles that day, but a warm August was creating slick algae growths on a daily basis. I used Simms Vibram boots a year ago, but went back to felt. Felt is much more predictable............
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