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Boreal Community Media

Coast Guard reinforces boating safety message after string of emergencies

Aug 02, 2019 11:09AM ● By Editor
Coast Guard crews continue to spread a message of safety on the Great Lakes after several boating rescues.  Photo: USCG

By Roxanne Werly of - Posted: July 31, 2019

Coast Guard crews continue to spread a message of safety on the Great Lakes after several boating rescues. 

This year has also been a deadly one for drownings on the Great Lakes. 

Tuesday a helicopter crew from Air Station Traverse City traveled 220 miles to help rescue a group in Lake Superior. 

The Coast Guard said their boat ran aground on a remote area of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. 

The three adults, three children and dog were lifted to safety and were not hurt. 

There have been more than 70 drownings on the Great Lakes in 2019. 

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, cold-water temperatures, rip currents, and boating without a life jacket are direct contributing factors to those deaths.

There is also a contributing factor of record high or near record high water levels across the Great Lakes, which can cause rip currents and submerge structures that are normally visible. 

Below are some tips to help stay safe on the water:

Life Jackets

  • Donning a life jacket is much harder once you are in the water, especially if you are injured.
  • Adult-sized life jackets will not work for children. A life jacket must be worn, fit snugly, and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through.
  • U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in three- fourths (76%) of recreational boating fatalities in 2017, and that 84.5 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
  • In the eight Great Lakes states for 2016, where life jacket use was known, 97% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets, only three (3) were known to be wearing their life jackets.

Safe Boat Operation

  • Boaters should be familiar with the areas in which they operate, especially at night and during times of reduced visibility, and should rely on navigational charts and aids to navigation.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience and improper lookout have been the top three contributing factors since 2010.
  • A float plan is a lifesaving tool that provides emergency responders with valuable information they need to search for a missing boater or a boater in distress. It is as simple as telling a loved one where you are going; make sure you stick to the plan.

Cold Water

  • Cold water is lethal. Understanding the risks and taking steps to reduce those risks could save your life.
  • Dress for the water temperature not the air; cold water lowers body heat dramatically fast even in warm air.
  • Even superb swimmers have been known to drown within just a few minutes in cold water due to loss of performance or swim failure.

Paddle craft

  • Paddlers should expect to get wet. Dress in adequate thermal protection that is effective while immersed in cold water.
  • Paddlers don’t just need to wear the proper gear, but also need to equip their boats with required and recommended safety gear, such as a hand-held VHF-FM radio, a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and flares.