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A birthday adventure; new law targets boaters, paddlers

June 12, 2009
By Joe Hackett

I received a recent email with a photo of a young man pulling on the oars of a small guideboat. He was celebrating his 8th birthday by taking an adventure up the Hudson River. A most appropriate choice, as his name is Hudson Stephens.

I was impressed with his rowing style. In the photo, he pulled on the overlapping oars with one hand over the other.

Anyone who has ever pulled on a set of guideboat oars knows from experience the importance of maintaining this unique over/under hand technique. Without it, an oarsman is assured a number of bruised, battered and bloody knuckles.

Article Photos

Hudson Stephens of Westport celebrated his 8th birthday with a guideboat tour of the Hudson River stillwater, located upstream of Lake Harris in Newcomb. The only thing better than his rowing technique is the wide grin across his face.
(Photo by Elizabeth Lee)

His friend, Adirondack guide Elizabeth Lee explained that, "Today I had a great adventure with a friend who is 8 years old. We plan to continue the adventure by exploring new sections of the river each year."

Children of the Adirondacks need friends like Ms. Lee, and many adults could use a companion like Hudson. I've discovered that explorations with a kid are a good way for adults to reclaim their own childhood.

New law targets

boaters and paddlers

A new navigation law has quietly worked it's way through both chambers of the NY state legislature, with very little fanfare. The law is an effort by the state to force residents to protect themselves.

Best described as a "water based" seat belt law, the state will require anyone in a pleasure vessel 21 feet and under to wear a personal floatation device (PFD). It is expected to take affect beginning on November 1, 2009.

A pleasure vessel can be a motor boat, canoe, kayak, paddleboat or guideboat. Anything that floats and is under 21 feet in length will require that all passengers wear a PFD.

No longer can the life jacket be stowed under the seat. You can't just sit on it. It must be worn. Hunters traveling by boat or canoe will likely be the initial user group to be affected as it is intended for the cold water months.

The bill, A6784 and Amd S40, Nav L has already been passed by both the NYS Senate and the Assembly. With the expectation of the Governor's signature, it will soon become law.

The new amendment will "prohibit owners and operators of certain pleasure vessels from permitting the operation of such vessels between November 1 and May 1 unless each passenger is wearing a PFD when the vessel is underway."

The purpose of this bill is to clarify legal requirements concerning the use of PFD's and decrease boating-related injuries and fatalities by requiring the use of PFDs on small vessels during the months of the year when water temperatures are at their coldest.

The rationale is explained as "Over the past decade there has been an upward trend in recreational boating fatalities. Nearly 20 percent of these boating fatalities occurred during the winter/early spring months involving small boats. In 90 percent of these cases, the victim was not wearing a PFD."

In water temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees, a person can become unconscious in less than 15 minutes.

Research conducted by the US Coast Guard reveals that the number one cause of hunter fatalities is cold water drowning.

It usually occurs when a hunter, dressed in heavy clothes for the weather, stands in a boat to take a pee at sea.

Because fewer persons are engaged in water-based activities during the off-season, the likelihood of prompt rescue during the cold-water months is reduced.

Under cold water conditions, a person's best chance of survival is to wear a securely fastened PFD which helps to conserve energy, prevents submersion, and allows more time for rescue.

Outfitters should expect to see increased demand for new models of the lightweight, comfortable, inflatable PFD's that can be worn under a jacket.

Available as either a vest or suspenders, the instantly inflating models will likely be a popular item for hunters, paddlers and other water-based travelers.

Wildlife facts:

fast, fat and dangerous

I recently had an interesting conversation with a young friend who asked a number of questions about fish and animal behavior.

The majority of his inquiries revolved around what animals were the biggest, toughest or fastest specimens in the world.

"What's the hardest fish to catch?" he'd query, or the "Most dangerous creature alive?"

With a bit of research, I found answers to most of his questions. Others, such as "The hardest fish to catch" are a bit more subjective.

Quite possibly, the hardest fish to catch is the largest freshwater fish in the world, a giant catfish that is found in the Mekong River which flows from China through Southeast Asia. Known as Pla Buk, translation Huge Fish, the largest specimen on record was caught in Thailand in May, 2005. Measuring 9 feet long and weighing 646 pounds, it was nearly five times the size of the North American catfish record.

The fastest freshwater fish on record is the rainbow trout. It ranks as the ninth fastest fish in the world and can accelerate to 23 mph in less than a foot. It has a vertical leap of 3-4 times it's length, roughly the equivalent of a man jumping 18-24 feet.

Sea run rainbows known as steelhead, are native to the Pacific Northwest. Among the angling fraternity, steelies or silver bullets, are renowned for their heart pounding, reel screaming runs and acrobatic leaps. Steelies rival any fish species for their tenacious battles.

Indo-Pacific sailfish are the fastest fish overall. They can swim at speeds of up to 68 mph and cover nearly 20 yards in a single leap.

Our swiftest bird is the peregrine falcon. Clocked flying horizontally at 55 mph, peregrines have been recorded at speeds of 273 mph in a dive. The largest bird, at 9 feet and 350 pounds is the ostrich. Although it cannot fly, this bird has attained speeds of 43 mph in a sprint.

"Can a man outrun a deer?" I was asked. A whitetail deer has a top speed of about 30 mph and it can leap nearly 25 yards in a single bound.

The top speed ever recorded for a human is 27.89 mph, not quite fast enough to keep up with a whitetail, but quick enough to outrun the average house mouse, which can hit 8 mph at top speed.

Unfortunately for the whitetails, the top speed for a coyote has been measured at 43 mph. Coyotes appear to be even faster when chasing deer on ice or on crusted snow - where deer are much slower.

The fastest animal is the cheetah, which can accelerate to 70 mph in under three seconds. Pronghorn antelope, in second place at 61 mph, are slower but can leap much further.The world's quickest reptile is the spiny-tailed iguana, clocked at 21 mph and the fastest insect is a hawk moth which can reach speeds of about 33 mph.

The slowest creature is a wood snail, a common slug. It churns along at a breath taking .003 mph.

Last but not least is the deadliest creature on the planet. It has no fangs, no claws and is smaller than a dime. Responsible for over 300 million cases of malaria each year, the anopheles mosquito causes between one and three million deaths annually.



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