Water safety is a concern as Spring arrives in Rutherford County. Heavy rains, storms can cause rivers to swell and bodies of water to grow dangerously high for recreational uses. There has already been one Stones River kayak rescue this year and Spring has just sprung.
“The characteristics of a river can change remarkably as the water level rises or falls. Even normally calm stretches become turbulent and dangerous at flood stage, because the force of currents slammed this way and that by rocks and obstructions creates powerful and dangerous surface conditions,” according to paddling.net
When going out on the water always put safety first. Wear a life jacket, and make sure it fits properly to avoid it sliding off in the water. Do not tie the life jacket to the boat. Take an experienced boater with you, especially if you are a beginner. River shoes are highly recommended as there may be glass or sharp rocks underwater.
Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency says:
- Post a lookout for bathers, fishermen, swimmers, debris.
- Reduce speed in harbors and in confined areas.
- Avoid excessive speed.
- Make no sharp turns at high speed.
- Watch your wake! You could be responsible for injury or damage caused by it.
- In rough water, stay low in the boat and cross waves at a slight angle.
- Keep red-buoys on your right when traveling upstream.
- Tying up to buoys or anchoring in channels is forbidden.
- Carry sufficient tools for minor repairs.
- If someone falls overboard, follow these procedures:
- Toss a life-saving device even if the person can swim. A life ring is the preferred device. It can be thrown farther and is easier to hang on to. However, use whatever device is nearest. Time is essential.
- Slow the boat, keeping the person in view. Other persons onboard should act as look outs. At night, direct the best possible lights on the victim.
- Try to approach the person from downwind or into the waves. Always use common sense and good judgment. Consider existing condition and ability of the victim and what other help is available. If someone aboard is capable, have the person put on a life-saving device with a line attached to the boat and enter the water to assist the person.
- Always stop the motor when someone is going over the side, or coming aboard.
- Assist the person in boarding the boat. It is difficult to climb into a boat from the water. The person may be hurt or cold and may require help.
For water safety floating a river:
Watch for obstacles and stop for a minute to scout the best path through before tackling a rapid. If you have to duck to avoid a “strainer”, lean forwards. A strainer is a branch or object that lays over the waterway and is hazardous to floaters. It is courteous to remove a strainer if you see one along your path.
Bring a spare paddle, throw line, first aid kit and plenty of drinking water. Even clean rivers have natural bacteria that could be harmful to you. Know where you are going, and be sure to use a zip-up plastic baggie or waterproof container to seal up any device, food or item that you don’t want getting wet.
There is always a chance of turning over, and if you capsize, don’t panic. Swim upstream of the boat and grab hold. Keep your feet away from the bottom where there are strong currents, unless you are in shallow water. Check to see if anyone is in imminent danger and forget the boat if someone in your party is struggling and needs help. Try your best to keep track of your paddle.