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Maine Warden Service warns recreational boaters of dangers


May 1, 2008


Maine Warden Service Urges Canoeists and Kayakers to Not Put Themselves at Risk;

Rescue Resources Deployed or On Call to Help Flood Victims

AUGUSTA – Because of the current high water levels throughout the state, the Maine Warden Service is urging recreational boaters – particularly canoeists and kayakers – to not knowingly put themselves in a situation where they may have to be rescued.

State resources currently are deployed or are on call to help in flooded areas throughout the state, according to Maine Warden Service Acting Colonel Gregory Sanborn. Canoeists and kayakers who may be enticed by the high waterways should stay off of them to not only protect themselves from danger but to respect the needs of people who are encountering flooding and may need help.

On Wednesday, wardens rescued a kayaker who flipped on the Saco River in Fryeburg, Sanborn said. Similar rescue events could drain resources that are on standby to help in flooded areas.

“Waters statewide are high and moving rapidly, and rescue personnel are concentrated on getting people in flood areas out of harms way,” Sanborn said. “These people don’t have a choice. Recreational boaters, which include canoeists and kayakers, do have a choice. They should seriously consider not putting themselves in a situation that could further drain rescue resources in the state.”

Sanborn said he encourages recreational boaters, especially canoeists and kayakers, to be patient. They’ll be back on the waters soon.

“Because the water is flowing freely and rapidly, a week’s time without any additional rainfall could make waterways safely navigable again,” Sanborn said.

Once high water levels recede, the Maine Warden Service wants people to take precautions to ensure safe passage. Waters will be cold, and cold water can kill, Sanborn said.

“Prolonged immersion in cold water can be deadly, and wearing a life jacket can increase your survival chances if you end up in the water unexpectedly,” Sanborn said.

Cold water is defined as any water with a temperature of 70 Fahrenheit or lower. Boaters should always be aware of the dangers of cold water, but particularly during the early part of the boating season when the water is colder and when there are not many other boaters around to help.

The initial shock of entering cold water can severely strain the body and it can even cause instant cardiac arrest. Survivors of cold water accidents often describe having their breath ‘knocked out’ of them upon their first impact with the water. Disorientation may also occur after cold water immersion. In addition, immersion in cold water can quickly numb the extremities to the point of uselessness. Cold hands may be unable to fasten the straps of a life jacket, grasp a thrown rescue line, or hold onto a boat.

Proper preparation is important when boating on cold water. Follow these easy Coldwater Survival Tips:

  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. When taking the boat out early in the season, and especially when hunting and fishing, form a group and take several boats along.

  • Dress properly for the cold. Several layers of light clothing offer better protection than a single heavy layer. Next to a diver’s wet suit, wool or polypropylene offers the best protection.

  • Always wear your life jacket when on the water. It is extremely difficult to put on a life jacket in cold water.

If you do find yourself in cold water, try not to panic. Think survival. Keep movement to a minimum and if you do have to tread water, do it slowly. This will reduce heat loss and aid retention of the air trapped inside your clothing, which can provide buoyancy and insulation. If you find yourself in swift water, float and point your toes downstream.

This spring know the dangers of cold water and prepare yourself accordingly.



Deborah Turcotte


Last update: 07/20/10