OUTDOORS: LeBlanc: Stay safe on the water during Memorial Day

Memorial Day is just around the corner and is normally one of the biggest boating holidays on our waterways here in Texas. This year is unique because many folks have been cooped up at home for two months or more, thanks to the coronavirus. Therefore, with some good weather, I expect everyone with anything that floats is going to hit our lakes, and the rest will be on our Gulf of Mexico beaches.

Mix the prolonged cabin fever release with the heat from the sun and generous helpings of canned pop with the foam on top, and the potential for health and welfare problems will abound, so let’s take a realistic look at what we might encounter.

Already for the past few weekends, boat launch lines and parking at the marinas on Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston have been overwhelmed, and trucks and boats have been lined up along the roadways because the parking lots at the marinas have been overtaxed. With lines come frustrations, and already overstressed patience gets another twist and pull. Add the kids fighting in the back seat and listen closely — you might hear another German soda water top being popped.

There are many subdivisions on Lake Conroe that have their own private boat launches, with the operative word there being “PRIVATE.” Those are private property, and I can assure you that if you launch your boat and park your truck in one of these areas, there is a really good chance your truck and trailer will be towed. However, you will probably have no trouble finding your vehicle as there will be a phone number posted stating who to call to find it, but the fees you will face will do nothing to enhance your holiday spirit.

Once you find your way to a boat launch, remember water can be an unforgiving mistress if we humans get a little sloppy in the safety department. A lot of folks do not stop and think how hard and unforgiving water can be when you hit the surface at a high rate of speed.

When a person falls out of a boat, off water skis or a jet ski at 30 or 40 miles per hour, they soon find it is not like jumping off a dock or the front deck of a stationary boat where the water will offer a wet, refreshing cushion to engulf and cool you as you descend and slowly and gently float back to the surface.

Instead, it is very similar to hitting a hard, slick surface that is unforgiving and insists that you bounce very unattractively across the surface, extremities askew. That will be the case until sufficient speed bleeds off, allowing you to break the surface tension of the water and sink. Hence the necessity of always wearing a life jacket when your boat is in motion. I know the law specifies that for children, but not for adults. Remember, a little common sense goes a long way.

We have all heard the old and worn saying concerning automobiles — speed kills. It may be old and tired, but it holds true for aquatic sports just like those on dry land. If you hit a dam, bridge pylon or another boat at 40 miles per hour, something is going to break.

There are no seat belts or air bags in a boat, and the occupants will surly end up thrown from the craft and, at best, probably stunned. If you are wearing an appropriate life jacket, you will float with your head out of the water. That will at least stop you from drowning if you are incapacitated.

Alcohol is another big problem that can cause major disruptions to our day in the sun and water. Everyone should know that alcohol affects your ability to react timely and accurately to situations. It can also cause dehydration if you are out in the hot sun and will not quench your thirst, nor replenish the fluids required by your body. Add to those two points the high-speed capabilities of our modern watercraft, and you have a formula for disaster. And, in case you are not aware, the only person who can stand a drunk is another drunk.

Then there is the old and recurring ailment, sunburn. Sunburn hurts and has been proven to cause long-term damage to skin. It can cause the appearance of premature aging. Worst of all, it can cause the development of skin cancer further on down the road. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to get sunburned in 2020 with all of the sunscreen products on the market. They are available at almost any retail establishment in the state.

So friends, there is nothing I would enjoy more than to have everyone take full advantage of the fun offered by our recreational waterways. But we all live in the real world where there are some thoughtless people, so be alert and responsible and protect yourself and your family.

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