The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources put out a news release this week urging boaters to practice social distancing on the water.
You would think that means the days of boats bumping into each other on the opener to get to the prime walleye holes on Lake Vermilion are over.
But probably not.
If the aisles of our local box stores are any indication, some Iron Rangers don’t really care about getting within six feet of each other despite all the warnings in the world.
Still, the DNR – or their over lords in St. Paul – don’t want us spreading COVID-19 should it finally arrive in any significant way north of Duluth.
Their warning that we should stay apart while boating isn’t reserved for just our time on the water – they also want us to step back at the gas pump, the boat landing, the docks and just about everywhere else.
They also suggest you don’t beach the boat to hang with friends, and no tying together for a visit, and only boating with people in your immediate household, and boating close to home – preferably in your back yard or via a fishing game on your PlayStation in your basement.
Perhaps something else to keep in mind at this time of year is that the water is cold in the spring.
Cold enough to kill.
One of a boater’s top priorities in the spring (and even sometimes into July in northern Minnesota) should be to social distance themselves from the lake – as in don’t fall in and if you do you, or someone you are with does, you need to be prepared.
First and foremost, wear a life jacket.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or how well you swim, if you fall into a lake in the spring in northern Minnesota your chances of survival are going to depend on whether you were smart enough to have that piece of equipment on.
If the temperature of the water is 32.5 degrees Fahrenheit, a person can survive up to 45 minutes, but the body will get exhausted and damaged in less than 15 minutes.
Hypothermia is a physical condition that occurs when the body temperature drops off below the normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold water causes hypothermia 25 times faster than cold air.
About 600 people in the US die from hypothermia each year. That might not seem like a lot, but it will if you or a loved one is one of those people.
According to information found on a United States Marine Corp web site, your first instinct, should you fall in, should be to remain calm and to swim, paddle and move – don’t just float.
Research suggests people can swim in cold water for a distance ranging between 800 and 1500 meters before being incapacitated by the cold.
If possible, try to swim towards safety.
Other suggestions from the marines include:
• If you fall into cold water, try to remain calm and assess your surroundings. The sooner you can devise a plan to get to safety, the better. During a study of cold-water immersion, 86% of subjects who acted quickly were successful in completing their self-rescue plan. After thirty minutes, those who hesitated experienced impairment in their decision-making abilities.
• Do not panic - you have time. Adults require 30 minutes or more to become clinically hypothermic, and 1 hour or more to become severely hypothermic. This gives you the time you need to ensure your life jacket is securely fastened and formulate a plan to reach safety.
• Keep your head up. Immersion into cold water can cause sudden disappearance syndrome. This usually occurs when the water temperature is below 15.5°C (60°F). When you initially hit the water you may experience gasping, profound hyperventilation, and cardiac arrhythmias. If your head is under water when you gasp, you may inhale water and drown. Get out of the water quickly and seek immediate medical care.
The final piece of advice they offer is once you get out of the water is to get warm. That may be easier said than done when a person has hypothermia. If you are there to help, the Mayo Clinic offers these first-aid tips:
• Be gentle. When you’re helping a person with hypothermia, handle him or her gently. Limit movements to only those that are necessary. Don’t massage or rub the person. Excessive, vigorous or jarring movements may trigger cardiac arrest.
• Move the person out of the cold. Move the person to a warm, dry location if possible. If you’re unable to move the person out of the cold, shield him or her from the cold and wind as much as possible. Keep him or her in a horizontal position if possible.
• Remove wet clothing. If the person is wearing wet clothing, remove it. Cut away clothing if necessary, to avoid excessive movement.
• Cover the person with blankets. Use layers of dry blankets or coats to warm the person. Cover the person’s head, leaving only the face exposed. Insulate the person’s body from the cold ground. If you’re outside, lay the person on his or her back on a blanket or other warm surface.
• Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may appear unconscious, with no apparent signs of a pulse or breathing. If the person’s breathing has stopped or appears dangerously low or shallow, begin CPR immediately if you’re trained.
• Provide warm beverages. If the affected person is alert and able to swallow, provide a warm, sweet, nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated beverage to help warm the body.
• Use warm, dry compresses. Use a first-aid warm compress (a plastic fluid-filled bag that warms up when squeezed) or a makeshift compress of warm water in a plastic bottle or a dryer-warmed towel. Apply a compress only to the neck, chest wall or groin.
• Don’t apply a warm compress to the arms or legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop. This can be fatal.
• Don’t apply direct heat. Don’t use hot water, a heating pad or a heating lamp to warm the person. The extreme heat can damage the skin or, even worse, cause irregular heartbeats so severe that they can cause the heart to stop.