Safety on the Ohio River
Safety on the Ohio River

Ok, you are getting ready for the upcoming season, be it boating or fishing. Have you given any thought to safety? Consider these issues:

Fog: There are several types but the result is the same: An inability to see or to orient yourself. The only safe solution in heavy fog is to not run. Your GPS sounds good at first but remember that it does not mark moving objects such as barges, towboats, cruisers and drift.

Debris: Debris is always a potential hazard on the Ohio. Keep in mind that although the Ohio is cleaner than it has been in the past it is still a moving body of water. It runs nearly 1000 miles, starting at Pittsburgh, Pa. and ending at the Mississippi River in Cairo, IL. There are literally thousands of tributaries along its path. You are hundreds of miles from the origin of this great river and that means that somewhere upstream there has been rain or some other discharge, which has created drift.

Shallow Water: The River has many shallow areas, some of them far from the bank. Make sure you know where you are before running your boat at high speed.

Barges: Barges are big, quiet and surprisingly hard to see and hear. Their lighting system is poor. That is a bad combination for pleasure/fishing boats. Barges throw big wakes that can flip a smaller boat without warning. When you are passing one of them from either the rear or the front make sure you see the other end, slow down and be careful when you cut over. Also, if you are along the shore, remember that the wakes, (rollers), are strong and will hit you long after the barge has passed.

Urinating: (Don’t laugh) Keep your life jacket on or put it on. If you are standing on the edge of the boat and slip you may fall overboard. In many cases this will cause head injury which can result in sudden drowning syndrome. Go to the dock or use a can.

Keep The Boat Clean & Organized: More than one boater has gone overboard by tripping on something in the boat. At least one angler has drowned when his feet became tangled in fishing line as he fell overboard. Keep a trash bag in the boat for line, paper products, cans and other discarded items. Make sure the bag is properly stowed when not in use.

Weather: Lightning is self-evident: If there is lightning in the area get off the water. More problematic is wind. In the Meldahl and Markland Pools a brisk wind from the west will generate large rollers in a matter of minutes. This can be very dangerous, especially if you experience mechanical failure or are an inexperienced boater.

Locks: The area in front of, and behind, dams and their locks should be approached with caution. There are typically strong currents in these areas. If you are inexperienced at locking you can access an excellent article by the Corps Of Engineers from the Internet at on the Articles Page. Contact the lockmasters at Meldahl  (513-876-2921), Greenup (606-473-7441) or Markland  (606-567-7661) for advice and instruction.

Current Around Stationary Objects: Current around stationary objects can be treacherous. As the current runs into a stationary object it tends to run under that object. This can be a serious problem if you are in the water, or your boat is in the water, in front of a barge or other large stationary object and the current is strong. It can, and will, pull you or your boat into, or under, the barge and result in damage to the boat or injury (death) to you or your passengers.

Alcohol/Drugs: This is a no-brainer: Only someone of great ignorance operates a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Do not ignore the side effects of prescription drugs, as well as, illegal drugs.

Life Jacket: The single most important thing you can to do save your life on the water is to wear a life jacket. I often hear boaters say they can swim: This does not solve the problem if you strike your head and are unconscious or if you are seriously injured in an accident. Think about it.

Keep it safe.