As we head into what I hope is a wonderful four-day holiday weekend for you and yours, I’d like to share a couple of safety messages with you.
And going in, I promise to not get preachy, or try to shame you into making decisions you don’t want to make. I may, however, choose to shame myself in this effort. Please bear with me.
Disclaimer Number One: For years (even as I kept urging BDN readers to be particularly careful while on the water), I was among those Mainers who often headed out fishing with a life jacket draped over the back of my seat, or sitting on the tackle box nearby.
And when it was sunny and I was hauling tubers around behind the ski boat, I’d sometimes be more focused on catching some rays than I would on attaching a bulky life vest to my chest.
In other words, I was the kind of guy I often warned you about. The guy who’d never have a chance to get his life jacket on in the case of a real emergency. The kind of guy who ends up dead.
I didn’t act that way all the time, mind you, and the smaller the boat or the colder the water, the more apt I was to be wearing a personal flotation device. But at times, I’ll admit, I wasn’t as safe as I probably should have been.
A few weeks back, while spending the day fishing with Maine guide Dan Legere on our annual drift boat outing, he started the day by tossing me an odd-looking PFD and declaring, “New policy.”
The message was clear: Put it on.
I’d fished with Legere more than a dozen times over the years, and while we always had vests in the boat, we were never required to wear them. But now, things were different.
“They’ll find your dead, floating body easier this way,” Legere joked, explaining that his wife, Penny, had convinced him to start wearing a life vest while guiding in Florida by saying the same thing.
Here, though, is the kicker: These new-fangled vests, which amount to a simple yoke of material that drapes comfortably over your shoulders, along with a waist strap that snaps closed, was not bulky. It was not uncomfortable. It didn’t make me overheat. And I could cast just fine in it.
I’d heard of these PFDs before — they’re lightweight, and inflate automatically through a CO2 system if they’re immersed in water — but had never tried one out.
Now, I’m hooked, and am already shopping for one of my own.
If you’re one of those reluctant PFD wearers, or if you’re married to one, you may want to do the same thing. A simple Google search for “CO2 life jacket” or “automatic PFD” will provide plenty of options.
And if you’re like me, I bet you’ll wonder why you waited so long to take this simple step toward safer boating.
Disclaimer Number Two: I spend a lot of time outdoors, and as I already mentioned, I may be a bit of a sun worshipper. I’m not going to lecture anyone on that front, and I still love a day at the beach as much as the next guy.
I will, however, share this bit of wisdom, culled from a recent experience: Get your moles checked. Please.
I am, without a doubt, a moley man. Covered with ‘em, in fact. And I thought I’ve kept a pretty close eye on my skin blemishes over the years, looking for particularly alarming moles that might signal something bad. Like skin cancer.
As it turns out, I had no idea what I was looking for.
And after finally taking my wife’s advice and heading in for a once-over-twice by the dermatologist, I learned that three moles I had never even noticed were more than a little bit alarming.
They were quickly removed and sent to the lab for further examination; subsequently, the doc decided they ought to remove more surrounding tissue to make sure they didn’t come back something even more alarming.
So here I am, a couple weeks later, with a bunch of sutures in my leg and another surgery on the docket for later in the year, to offer this warning.
Unless you’ve got a medical degree, you don’t know what you’re supposed to be looking for. And if you’ve got a bunch of moles on your own personal landscape, you don’t even know where to start looking. Trust me.
Do yourselves a favor. Do your spouse a favor. Let someone else give those moles a look.
Then, come join me outside for a glorious Maine summer.
Sunscreen and life jackets required, of course.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter, @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” will be released by Islandport Press in October.