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Tips to combat exposure on the water


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 14, 2001

I don't have to tell anyone who has been outside recently that it is getting mighty warm out there! Whether you are working in the yard, going for a walk on the beach or out on the water in your boat, you know it is warm and as the season progresses, so too will the hot temperatures.

Homosassa Flotilla 15-4 of your U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary would like to remind their boating friends that exposure to the sun while on the water can be dangerous!

The effects of the sun and heat combined with the marine environment require special precautionary measures. Many boaters are not familiar with "Marine Environmental Fatigue Syndrome."

This condition can affect both your judgment and coordination and is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun, wind, motion, noise and occasional breathing of exhaust fumes. These conditions are amplified during the summer months because of heat and humidity.

While the use of alcohol is never recommended for operators of any vessel, it is especially dangerous under these conditions. The effects of this syndrome produces lack of coordination, poor depth perception, poor judgment and just plain fatigue. Alcohol can only add to an already serious and dangerous situation!

I am sure that most of you have seen the damage the hot sun can do to your boat or vehicle's paint. With that in mind, just imagine what it can do to your unprotected skin and to your eyes as well! A recently purchased sunscreen with a high SPF number should be worn. Please note that I did say recently purchased. Studies have shown that these products may lose their effectiveness both in the bottle and while on the skin. They should be purchased at least annually, and stored aboard in a cooler. Since heat tends to break down their preservatives, the lotion should be reapplied often.

Ultraviolet type A rays (UVA) not only cause sunburn, sun poisoning, wrinkles, skin cancer, etc., but can damage the eyes as well! Boaters should protect their eyes with a good pair of UV-rated sunglasses.

Wearing lightweight, long clothing not only protects boaters from the sun, but also helps the body maintain a proper temperature.

Bathing suits may be the traditional clothing worn for a summer boating outing, but long, lightweight clothing holds perspiration and helps cool the body. Wearing a wide brim hat can shade you as well. Because of the extreme heat of the sun over our waters the U.S. Coast Guard has recently approved the adoption of the "Tilley" hat for use by members of their Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crews.

They are a wide brim hat that offers extra protection from the elements for USCG Auxiliary personnel while conducting safety patrols and other outdoor activities such as free "vessel safety checks."

So what do we do if someone on board our boat should succumb to the heat? Obviously it is important to detect the problem as early as possible before heat prostration or heat stroke occurs. At the first sign of a heat-related problem, give the person lots of water or a sports electrolyte-replacing drink. Cool them down. Bathe them with wet cloths and fan them. Drinks with alcohol and sugar may taste good, but actually aid in the dehydration.

Remember, older folks and small childrenlose fluids faster. Another important reminder is to be sure that all persons who will be on board, bring with them any prescription medicine they are required to take.

The Boy Scouts of America have as their motto, "Be Prepared." That should be the motto of every boater as well! You may very well plan to be on the water for only a short time, but if your engine malfunctions, you could be out there for a very long time. Be sure that you have emergency items and rations on board to survive as well as all of the required safety equipment.

Did you leave a "Float Plan" behind with someone before setting out on your fishing or pleasure boating activity? This is an easy thing for a wise skipper to do. Just jot down a short description and the number of your vessel where you will be going, the route you intend to follow, how long you expect to be there, and what time folks should get worried and call authorities. Then just leave it with someone who will miss you if you don't return by the "worry time" and who will call authorities, (U.S. Coast Guard, Station Yankeetown at 447-6900).

Is there a special boating safety related topic that you would like me to address in a future article? Perhaps an unsafe or hazardous situation in our area waters that you are aware of that we can share with the proper agency as well as other boaters. Perhaps too it is just the dangerous and/or discourteous actions of some other boaters that really upsets you.

If that is the case, then I suspect that you are not alone. Why not share your "pet peeves" with me and let's just see how many there are out there. You can e-mail me at or you can write to me at: Wilbur B. Scott, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 15-4, P.O. Box 2084, Homosassa Springs, FL 34447-2084.

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Editor's note: This is one of an occasional series of columns. Today's column is written by Wilbur B. Scott, public affairs officer for Flotilla 15-04 of Homosassa. Call him at 628-0639.

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