Be prepared to handle the heat


June 19, 1994|By PETER BAKER

In midweek, a morning run was made south from the Severn River to the area of the Stone Rock near the mouth of the Choptank River, in hope of catching black drum, croaker and bluefish.

Given the heat wave, it seemed the morning would afford an opportunity to get in some fishing before the terrible heat of midday and early afternoon.

The cooler was packed with ice, sodas, sandwiches, snacks and bottled water. No. 30 sun block was applied liberally. The bimini top was raised, and the open boat soon was making 35 knots down the bay toward Sharps Island Light.

But as sometimes happens with the best made plans of mice and fishermen, something went wrong. Well, several things went wrong.

About midway through the run south, west off Poplar Island, the inboard engine began to misfire. The problem was found soon enough. The No. 2 spark plug, changed with the other seven on a very hot afternoon a few days before, had backed slightly out of the port.

After 15 or so minutes of mild exertion and heavy sweating, the plug had been reseated, the other seven had been checked and the trip was resumed with that lightheaded feeling of mild accomplishment. A cold drink would have been nice, but there would be time for that later -- in between baiting hooks with soft crab and reeling in fish, of course.

In the mouth of the Choptank, the voltmeter, which gauges the current in the charging system, dropped off the scale. A minor problem, probably, but one that merited immediate inspection.

Perhaps a drive belt had broken or worked loose. A simple matter, really -- again leave the shade of the bimini, open the engine cover, get out the tools, loosen a few bolts, tension the belt or replace it with a spare -- and varoom, off again toward the Stone Rock.

Nothing so simple this time. The belt was properly tensioned, the alternator sounded normal, the wire leads that could be seen were tight and clean in their connections, except one, which of course ran with a bundle of others through a wrapping of tape from the front of the engine back to the ballast resistor.

With half of the wrapping removed, a break in the wire was discovered and mended, and the voltmeter again showed a positive charge.

But after 45 minutes of what seemed to be mild exertion and certainly was heavy sweating, the charge in the repairman had become negative.

And, frankly, even though the symptoms and their general causes have been drilled into the repairman's brain repeatedly since Scouts, it took a few minutes to recognize them.

OC With the temperature climbing quickly into the 90s and the high

humidity, a total of an hour or more of sweating profusely had begun to put the body's cooling system on the blink. The repairman was feeling the early effects of heat illness.

Sitting in the shade of the bimini, there were feelings of dizziness, weakness, a slight headache and continued sweating, all of which are symptoms of heat illness, and all of which were reminders that working or playing in high heat and humidity requires extra preparation.

* Take the time to become acclimatized to hot, humid environments before undertaking strenuous activity. If you are faced with forecasts of a prolonged heat wave, spend some hours outside the air conditioning over a period of several days before heading out for a day of hiking, running, biking or fishing.

* Keep your fluids up. In hot, humid weather -- 88 degrees and up and humidity of 60 percent or higher -- one can lose a quart or two of sweat while exercising and this can lead to dehydration. To prevent dehydration during periods of exercise, drink a pint of water before starting and about a cup of water every 15 or 20 minutes during exercise.

* Sport drinks will replenish vital minerals lost in your sweat. Avoid overly salty foods, because they will throw off the balance of potassium and sodium in your system; normal foods are sufficient to replace lost sodium. Even more important is to replace the fluid lost during exercise.

* Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and stay in the shade as much as possible.

* If you begin to feel the effects of the heat, take the time to rest, to eat and drink properly. Pack the cooler with water, sodas and sandwiches rather than beer.

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