Life vests are the seatbelts of boating.
While thankfully very few people jump out of a car and find themselves in a hostile environment, the same can’t be said for a boat.
At Lake Tahoe, the water temperature is around 55 degrees, and was around 30 degrees colder than the air temperature on Monday afternoon.
Cold water shock is literally a gasping reflex upon jumping into the water, according to the North Lake Tahoe Fire Department, and has been responsible for virtually one death every summer at the Lake for years.
It takes a minute to catch your breath at best, and if you’re not wearing a life jacket, that’s a minute you probably don’t have.
Even if you do bring your breathing under control, it’s generally 10 minutes before you lose the strength in your limbs and can’t swim any more.
There’s a reason virtually every agency responsible for safety on Lake Tahoe has some sort of rescue boat.
And fortunately, boaters have retained a sense of community that seems to elude motorists on occasion.
Last week’s boat sinking off Zephyr Cove Beach was a fantastic example where people on the water came to the rescue before emergency personnel were able to deploy, bringing seven people to shore unharmed.
The lake is popular with watercraft of all types ranging from paddle boards to boats to the MS Dixie, which itself logged a rescue on June 16 after two jet ski riders fell into the Lake.
We don’t want to frighten someone from enjoying the water at Lake Tahoe or anywhere else for that matter, especially as warmer days make a cool dip particularly inviting.
We just want to encourage people to recognize that the difference between a tale about a beautiful day on the Lake and a tragedy could lie in a simple flotation device.