Coast Guard issues warm-weather safety advisory

BOSTON – The United States Coast Guard is issuing a warm weather advisory for all weekend boaters, paddlers, sailors and fishers on the inland and coastal waters of the Northeast’s First Coast Guard District. With 90-degree temperatures forecasted for the year’s first summer-like weekend, the beck and call of open water is strong and, with water temperatures in the 50-degree range, the combination is dangerous.

The Coast Guard recommends that boaters and paddlers commence the summer season by getting a Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons vessel safety check and regularly adhering to the following guidelines:

  • Leave a float plan with a responsible individual who knows your intentions, location, and who to call if you fail to return as scheduled.
  • Assess the risk – be realistic about what can go wrong and be fully equipped and prepared to survive.
  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket and set the example for your passengers or paddling partners.
  • Be aware of and prepared for the shock of sudden immersion and incapacitating effects of cold water.
  • Maintain situational awareness on the water – be aware of boat traffic and activity around your vessel.
  • Boat sane, safe and sober – save the alcohol for when you’ve safely returned.

“Boaters and paddlers in the Northeast are fortunate to have an inviting network of inland and coastal waters available for their use and enjoyment,” said Al Johnson, Recreational Boating Specialist for the First Coast Guard District. “Unfortunately things can and do go wrong on the water and being aware of the risks and being properly equipped and prepared is essential.”

Johnson noted that by this time last year, there were a total of 20 recreational boating and paddling fatalities in the Northeast. These included seven motorboat related fatalities and 13 non-motorized fatalities and all were the result of capsizing or falling overboard.

This year, eight paddlers and boaters have died in similar circumstances, and no one was wearing a life jacket.

Johnson said the effects of the cold Northeast waters can debilitate even experienced paddlers.

“I wish I could say it in gentler terms,” said Johnson, “but, plain and simple, cold water shocks, incapacitates and kills and our waters show no mercy to the innocent, unsuspecting or unprepared boater or paddler. Wearing a life jacket isn’t guaranteed to save your life but it does guarantee a better chance of surviving.”

The Northeast First Coast Guard District, along with members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons, launched Operation Paddle Smart on Sunday to generate greater safety awareness in canoes, kayaks and non-motorized boats. The operation, while planned to be an annual event, will run through June 30th.

Johnson also reminds boaters and paddlers that, with Father’s Day fast approaching, a life jacket makes a perfect gift.

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