Coast Guard warns boaters of cold water despite warm air temperatures in Great Lakes

CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard 9th District is warning Great Lakes boaters that falling water temperatures pose safety risks even as air temperatures stay warm.

The National Weather Service reports that the water temperatures in Lake Superior are already reaching 50 F, with lakes Ontario, Huron, Erie and Michigan down to 60 F after summer temperatures approaching 80 F.

“Warm air temperatures can create a false sense of security for boaters,” said Mike Baron, recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard 9th District.

“Cool water drains body heat up to 25 times faster than cool air. That is why we encourage boaters to always dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature.”

Great Lakes weather is unpredictable and dangerous, especially during seasonal transitions.

Paddlers are at a higher risk of hypothermia, because they are more likely to get wet than power boater.

Here are a few tips from the Coast Guard to help keep you safe:

  • Never go out on the water alone.
  • Ensure your vessel is seaworthy and inspect it thoroughly.
  • Always check and monitor the marine weather forecast before any trip out onto the lakes. High winds and dropping temperatures are good reasons to postpone an outing.
  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. A life jacket allows a person to float with a minimum of energy expended and allows the person to assume the heat escape lessening position (H.E.L.P.) – bringing the knees close to the chest and holding them in place by wrapping the arms around the shin portions of the legs.
  • The Coast Guard recommends carrying a registered personal locator beacon in addition to a VHF-FM marine radio, to alert the Coast Guard and local safety agencies of potential distress. Consider a waterproof hand-held model that can be kept on one’s person.
  • Carry all required and recommended safety gear, such as visual distress signals, a sound-producing device, etc. Carry visual distress signals and a whistle in the pockets of the life jacket being worn so they’re close at hand in an emergency.
  • Set limits. Know when it’s time to call it a day.
  • If boating with pets, keep in mind that animals also need the added protection of flotation while enduring colder weather. Not all animals swim or swim well. Like their human companions, animals are just as susceptible to the harsh elements, including the effects of hypothermia. Several manufacturers make life jackets specifically for dogs and cats, in a variety of sizes.

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