Be careful on the water

Sailing on Lake George (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

Memorial Day weekend is the beacon of barbecue and peaceful lake days. Remember that even in late May, the average water temperature is still in the high 50s to low 60s. I’m all for taking a quick dip or long boat ride in a chilly Adirondack lake, but I am prepared for the possibility of falling into the water away from shore. It may feel like summer, but I am always wary of water. There is an old saying, “Be prepared for the worst temperature you can have, not the temperature you expect.”

I want to walk around in shorts, hit the beach and swim to my heart’s content. The issue is the water temperature never matches my expectations. It doesn’t stop me from using any watercraft; I dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. When people see summer on the horizon, risky behavior often happens.

I was recently sailing on Lake George, where we saw a person go overboard. The conditions were cold and windy. Thankfully the water rescue went seamlessly. The person was wearing a life jacket and was only in the water for about 10 minutes. He quickly started to shake and lose the use of his hands, and had to be lifted aboard. He stripped down, was helped into warm clothes and brought to shore. No one wants that to happen, but it is always best to have a plan if it does.

New York state does not require boaters riding in a vessel less than 21 feet to wear a life vest after May 1st. All children under 12 (unless they are in a fully enclosed cabin) must wear a personal flotation device. Life jackets do need to be available on all boats. Please err on the side of caution. Whether powerboating, paddling or sailing, it doesn’t take any extra space to have a spare blanket or dry set of clothes packed away as part of other medical supplies.

The lakes and streams are no longer frozen, but it doesn’t mean the water is warm. With water in the 50-60 range, it can only take an hour for someone to reach hyperthermia. Wind conditions and alcohol consumption speed up the time.

Each spring, I read about another senseless boating or swimming accident. Please take special precautions. Be safe.


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