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Rick Shapiro
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Safety Guidelines While Boating in Rivers, Marshes and Wetlands

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With the warmer weather quickly approaching, many will be enticed to hit the waterways and marshes on the Outer Banks to enjoy some kayaking and canoeing. Whether they are new to the sport or have already experienced some kayaking, everyone must follow the same guidelines when it comes to water safety and preparing for a trip on the water.

There are some basic supplies and gear every paddler must be sure to have. Not only will it make the excursion more pleasurable, but it will help ensure a safe journey. No matter how experienced a person thinks they are, everyone must wear a flotation vest. Make sure that it fits snug because that will keep the head and chest out of the water. Everyone needs to wear sunscreen. Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are also necessities. There are a lot of good choices when it comes to appropriate foot ware. Just make sure that shoes have soft soles and sandals should have straps to provide better footing and also to prevent them from being lost in the water. Bottled drinking water is a must and so are snacks that are sealed in plastic bags.

High water and swift moving rivers, especially following a spring rainstorm, can endanger lives when enjoying water sports. Currents can suddenly become stronger and take inexperienced paddlers into dangerous situations. Oftentimes, branches are swept downstream and get stuck or trees can fall and block part of the river. Just riding along the current without paying much attention or going around a blind bend can quickly lead to big problems. Such waters as these can make it hard to navigate in addition to hiding lots of different hazards. So, here are a few helpful safety tips to think about if you are planning to take a trip on a scenic river.

During the off season, rivers are still cold so take measures to reduce the risk of hypothermia. Dress appropriately for the weather and bring along a change of dry clothes protected in a plastic zipper bag. Bring supplies to start a fire and pack them to ensure they stay dry. An emergency whistle may come in handy to signal other paddlers of trouble ahead. Also, bring along a good knife with a serrated blade for cutting through rope, fishing line, or other debris in which anyone can become tangled. Rescue throw ropes can help in the retrieval of people swept away or who become stranded in the middle of a river.

Where there is a meander in the river, stay on the inside. Debris is carried to the outside of bends, where the water is faster. The slower water is on the inside of a bend and watercraft is more easily controlled in these waters. Keep focusing on the water ahead to give enough time to avoid obstacles like rocks and logs. Although many look forward to a relaxing and fun day on the river, just remember that alcohol and river activities don’t go well together. Alcohol impairs ones judgment and abilities and the effects of alcohol are intensified while exposed to the hot sun. Be responsible and stay sober on the water and on the drive home, too.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, as well as the Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers. Lawyers licensed in: VA, NC, SC, WV, DC, KY, who handle car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more.

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