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Iowa DNR offers tips for safe boating practices

A row of paddle boats are tied to the dock at Lake Macbride Boat Rentals in Solon on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A row of paddle boats are tied to the dock at Lake Macbride Boat Rentals in Solon on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

“I would not recommend any boating operation at this point in time,” he said. “The water is way, way out of its banks and it is very dangerous.”

He said as flooding occurs up north, the water flows down and floods up rivers and dams further down. This also brings debris and other objects down with it, which can create safety hazards.

“It’s just really simple- if it’s not within the river banks, it’s too high,” he said. “You don’t know what other logs are floating underneath or where other obstacles are because the river is out of its banks. You could cause damage to your boat or you could cause damage to your person or someone else, so again, it is not recommended.”

Henderson said once boating is safer, a fire extinguisher, throwable safety device, such as a life ring, life jackets for everyone on board and a sounding device, such as a whistle or horn, are all required by Iowa law to have on board.

“A sounding device is a good type of tool right now when the water is pretty high when you get down closer to a dam or something, being able to hear somebody that needs help is a good tool and the throwing device is designed to throw further than any type of life jacket,” he said. “A boat oar in your boat is not required by Iowa law, but a boat oar is obviously a very good tool to have.”

For a throwable safety device, just as a board or safety ring, he says to attach a rope to the device in case the first throw is amiss.

“That way if somebody does go overboard you can just throw that to them. If you happen to miss your target on the first throw, you can pull that back and then re-throw it,” he said.

When it comes to life jackets, he suggests checking the weight limit, especially for kids. He said putting a 30-pound child in a 60-pound life jacket, for example, could be hazardous because the child is smaller than the safety device and could slip out of it.

Safety devices are especially important now as Henderson said he would not suggest anyone consider boating while flooding still is an issue in communities.

To ensure the weather is safe, Henderson says to check the weather forecast before departure. If one is caught in the middle of a thunderstorm while on the water, he says to try to get to shelter as quickly as possible but do not seek shelter under trees.

“Trees could get blown over and capsize,” he said. “Try to look for safety options and get off the water.”