Written by Richard L. Withington
posted on April 12, 2009 23:23
In January the River took its leave, pulled a thick white blanket over itself, and rested. Freed from the turmoil of thrashing props, rushing jet skis, and the burden of carrying the commerce of the world on its back, the River did what it does best; it flowed quietly and mostly unseen toward the sea. For a few weeks it became detached from the concerns of pollution, global climate change, hostile take-overs, and crashing markets. Under Nature's protection, it took shelter from its responsibilities as a commercial highway, vehicle of recreation, and international boundary; ..... and it rested.
Yet it could not hide from two of its principal tasks as teacher and inspiration. It teaches that we, too, must rest, re-focus, and emerge in spring rejuvenated. After the blow in early March, the ice broke up and then froze helter-skelter. It was unsuitable for any crossing. I was isolated here for nearly two weeks, note "isolated", not "stranded". For about ten days, I didn't see another living person. That is a special opportunity; it is not available in a space station, nor in solitary confinement in a prison. Probably the only people who share that experience are solo adventurers e.g. sailors or trekkers.
Taking my cue from the River, I rested; slept as much as possible, and did little that was not directly involved in keeping warm, fed, or dry. What did I learn? The time spent standing like a statue in frigid air while feeding the birds = prayer. I get about the same feeling from both.
Now the ice is gone, the River has awakened, and we are rested. Let the season begin!
Be sure to check the safety equipment on your boat. The Coast Guard (CG) quite rightly checks for outdated flares, insufficient life jackets, and burned out running lights. Replacing the needed equipment before the CG inspection will surely save you grief, and maybe, money.
The best treatment for immersion hypothermia is prevention. Do whatever you have to do to stay out of the cold water. The water is crystal clear this time of year, and very inviting. Remember, little children are more susceptible to hypothermia than adults, because of the difference in their body mass/surface area ratio. They chill very quickly. In them, hypothermia doesn't sneak up. It comes on like gangbusters. We see more hypothermia cases in May and June than in the winter. I won't get into the war stories, but stay warm and dry.
I pulled a 16-foot 6X6 from the water yesterday, and a 12-foot tree trunk the day before. Stay vigilant and go slow at night. Marine engines can be cranky in the early season after a long lay-up. Be sure you have your BoatUS card with you and a cell phone or radio to get a tow. It's nothing to be ashamed of, just a fact of life on the River.
Dick Withington, Round Island
Editor's note: Thanks Dick for sharing your Island life with us. We also suggest you link to Rolli and Danielle Pootmans' February article, Spring into the Boating Season, for more boating information.