Be smart out on the water

Two American anglers had quite the scare last week when they went missing for three days on Lake of the Woods during the first snowfall of the season.
It’s unclear exactly how the father and son ended up some 50 km up the lake from where they were staying at Buena Vista Resort in Morson.
While all of the details of their misadventure are not known publicly, several mistakes were made by these guys that were life-threatening, especially at this time of year. As someone who’s made a living in the outdoors, guiding both anglers and hunters in all seasons, I’ve had some close calls over the years and have had to think about many of the situations these guys were faced with.
The pair were in a 16-foot aluminum boat with a 25 h.p. motor and it seems like they got lost and just started driving the boat—evidently in the wrong direction of the camp. Eventually they ran out of gas and pulled the boat into the nearest cove they could get to.
A few phone calls were made before the cellphone they had died.
The anglers told the folks at Buena Vista that they were in Sabaskong Bay, which was close by, but in reality they were more than 40 km from where they actually were on the north side of Falcon Island.
A search party was organized to look for the lost anglers but when they were not found that evening in the area where they said they were, the police were called. The next day, the search continued despite strong winds and heavy snowfall (it was not a good day to be on the lake).
The search continued the next day and still neither the boat nor the anglers were found. Finally, when the weather broke on the third day, a pair of helicopters were brought in to help with the search effort.
After a tip came in from a commercial fisherman who said he saw a boat matching the description of the missing vessel farther north up the lake, the search area was expanded and the pair eventually were found. The 75-year-old father was on his last leg with hypothermia and dehydration while the son was in better shape.
Both should make a full recovery but I can’t imagine how happy they were to see the OPP officers when they found them.
Several mistakes were made by these anglers but they could have been made by anybody. This is not about picking on these guys; it’s about informing people to make good decisions when they are on the water, especially at this time of year, to avoid this kind of thing from happening.
While Lake of the Woods is charted well, it is easy to get lost for those unfamiliar with the lake and its landmarks. If you venture out on the water at this time of year, make sure you have a plan of where you are going to go and let somebody know where you are going.
Because of the harsh conditions, the lives of the many people searching for these folks were put at risk, as well.
If you are going to be stranded for the night and you have access to any kind of cover, I would suggest finding it. If that means kicking in a door or window to a cabin, then I would recommend it. These can be replaced.
It sounds like these guys had a fire going for the first night they were out but couldn’t keep it going after that. A good fire should have been a huge priority for these guys so knowing how to make a fire and fuel it is important.
Anyone venturing out during the cold weather months or in the winter always should carry multiple fire-starting devices. I like to keep lighters in pockets, as well as in dry boxes in my boat.
Thankfully this story has a happy ending but they don’t always end up this way. Please be thoughtful if you’re out in the woods or on the water at this time of year and always tell someone where you’re going, make sure your phone is charged, bring fire starters and warm clothes, and if you get lost, try to find cover or a good place to wait until someone finds you.
We live in a beautiful part of the world but the elements can be unforgiving.

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