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Pioneer Editorial: Respect for the waters is foremost

Summer weather always brings summer activities that involve water. Especially in our area, boating becomes a pastime for many -- either fishing or recreational boating. It also means danger to those who are careless on the water, or inattentive.

There were 12 boating deaths in Minnesota waters last year, a low. This year is trending up with more boating deaths and accidents, including in north-central Minnesota.

The death of a canoeist this week in a Beltrami County lake prompted Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp to issue Wednesday a long but pertinent list of water safety tips.

Most deaths among boaters are caused by falls overboard and capsizing, Hodapp says. In a small boat, a boater has to resist the urge to stand up. Those who must move around should keep their weight low and close to the center of the boat. And, it should go without saying that a boater should wear their personal floatation device. "Wearing your PFD is the best life insurance policy afloat," the sheriff said.

"Collisions with a second boat or another object don't just happen," said Hodapp. "They are usually the result of inattention, fatigue and a lack of knowledge about local water conditions."

Among other warnings, Hodapp says:

E Watch the weather. If caught in heavy waves, keep the boat bow headed into the waves at an angle.

E Let someone know where you are boating and when to expect to return.

E Alcohol and drugs are involved in about a third of all boating fatalities. It's also illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated.

E If in the water, be wary of the propeller. Be sure to turn off the motor any time people are in the water near the boat. Go around to pick up a skier, never use reverse.

E The "circle of death" is when an operator lets go of the steering wheel or outboard steering handle while the boat is moving. Torque forces the motor to slam to the left, causing the boat to swerve sharply to the right, throwing the operator out. The continues swerving sharply in a circle, striking the victim.

While Minnesota requires drivers of motor vehicles to pass written and on the street exams to gain a driver's license, no license is required to operate a boat. There are restrictions for children under age 12,and those between ages 12 and 17 must have a watercraft operator's permit or have someone at least 21 in the boat who is within reach of the controls.

It would, however, behoove all boat operators regardless of age to learn about the rules of the waterways and practice them.

Boating is a fun summertime activity, but it can also be dangerous. We urge all who enjoy our great waterways to show care, caution and respect for the waters and those who use them.