Alcohol, boating don’t mix

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 1999

By ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / June 30, 1999

LAPLACE – In this part of the country, the Fourth of July weekend means a long boating weekend for a lot of people. There is nothing like cooling offon the waters of Lake Ponchartrain or watching a beautiful fireworks display from the deck of one’s boat. However, because it is a holiday andthere will be a lot of boaters on the water, it is time to pay attention to safety rules and regulations while participating in water sports.

Both the Louisiana Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and the 8th Coast Guard District tell people to have fun on the water this Fourth of July, but also take the proper precautions for a fun and safe holiday.

The biggest mistake people make on boats is to drink lots of alcohol. Inthe hot weather, alcohol and sun are a deadly combination.

Petty Officer Jeff Hall, spokesman for the 8th Coast Guard District, said, “Most people don’t realize that heat intensifies the effects of alcohol.

Under a full sun, two beers will have the same effect on your body as four beers.”Dr. Chris Mandry of the Louisiana Chapter of the American College ofEmergency Physicians added this further caution: “Hours of exposure to sun, glare, vibration and powerboat noise can produce a type of boater’s hypnosis. These mixed with alcohol can be deadly.”Alcohol is one of the leading contributors to drownings.

“Being tipsy can result in falling overboard. Your ability to swim to safetyor call for help is greatly reduced as alcohol slows reactions,” Mandry said.

The Coast Guard advises everyone to wear a life jacket.

“Think of a life jacket as a seatbelt,” said Hall. “Unfortunately most peopledon’t want to wear lifejackets in the hot weather because they are uncomfortable.”People who spend a lot of time on the water should also get to know boating safety tips and basic seamanship. Hall suggested that everyonewho owns a boat take advantage of the free courses the Coast Guard holds on boating safety. To find out when these classes are being held in thearea, call the Coast Guard at 1-800-368-5647.

Here are some other safety tips: Tell someone when you’re going, who is with you and how long you will be away.

Check your boat, safety equipment, boat balance, engine and fuel supply before leaving.

Before starting your engines, open hatches, run blower, and most importantly, carefully sniff for gasoline fumes in the fuel and engine areas.

When changing seats, stay low and near center line of a small boat.

Always carry lifejackets and first aid equipment.

Watch the weather. Sudden wind shifts, light flashes and choppy watercan mean a storm is brewing.

If you will be fishing keep fishing gear clean and well packed. A loosefish hook can cause a lot of pain and ruin a great outing.

In case you do run into trouble, Hall said boaters should carry a marine band radio and make emergency calls on Channel 16, monitored 24 hours a day by the Coast Guard. If you don’t have a marine band radio, Hallsuggested boat owners carry a cellular phone.

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