Boaters Should Prep For New Season, Coast Guard Says

Mike Krauser
April 13, 2018 - 9:06 am
U.S. Coast Guard on Lake Michigan

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- As the weather begins to turn, we’re seeing boats dotting the lake and the harbors.

The U.S. Coast Guard is asking that boaters take some precautions. 

At Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor, they’re prepping for the boating season, and the Commanding Officer, Matthew James, suggests boaters do the same.

“Give your boat a good bow-to-stern check.  If you’ve got first aid equipment, check it out.  We strongly recommend at least a hand-held VHS radio for anyone who’s going to be out on the water.”

A mayday call can be pin-pointed and can save your life.

At about 40-degrees, the lake is cold.

James said that if things go south and you end up in the water, “You have about one minute to remain calm and get your composure. You have to fight the body’s natural reaction to gasp when it hits cold water.  You’ll suck in that cold water and it will compromise your buoyancy and you can drown.”

After 10 minutes, the body develops the signs of hypothermia as blood leaves the extremities to protect the core.

Hands, arms and legs, become difficult to move.

He suggested that parents warn kids about the dangers of jumping into cold water, no matter the outside temperature.

James said life jackets are essential and required by law.

“Life jackets work best when they’re worn,” he said.  “With the loss of dexterity and the loss of muscle function if you enter cold water the odds of you being able to successfully get a life jack on once you enter the water is significantly diminished and we’ve seen cases in the past when folks have entered cold water and the only thing that’s helped them survive is the fact that had their life jacket on.”

Even with a life jacket, life expectancy in 40-degree water is 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the person.

The Commander said almost all fatal incidents on the water involve alcohol.

The body reacts differently to alcohol in the heat and with the movement of the waves, he added.