water safety

Safety Key as Water Temperatures Remain Cold While Air Temps Climb

Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial start of summer and it is certainly starting to feel like summer - but there are things to remember if you want to safely enjoy the water.

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The warm weather can be deceiving when it comes to hitting the beach or heading out on a boat. While the air is getting warmer, the water in Long Island Sound is slow to catch up and is still very cool, which can quickly turn a fun day on the water into a dangerous situation.

"We are definitely seeing a big uptick in the level of operations around here,” said Petty Officer Second Class Benjamin Lind, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound.

It's a busy time of the year for the United States Coast Guard because of cold water temperatures.

"We find that people who find themselves immersed in water actually becoming victims of hypothermia much easier than they would have expected to," Lind said.

With the Long Island Sound water temperature only in the mid-50s, the effects of hypothermia can be immediate.

"If it's cold enough, initial shock of entering the water can actually cause cardiac arrest and other health issues - there are a lot of concerns that go along with that. But typically somebody in water that's underneath about 70 degrees can succumb to hypothermia in about an hour."

According to the state law, wearing a life jacket on a manually operated vessel like a kayak or canoe is mandatory through May 31, and anyone under the age of 12 must always wear one. 

On a motorized vessel, there must always be one life jacket for every person on board. But if you are out on a boat or enjoying a water sport like kayaking or paddleboarding, the Coast Guard recommends always wearing a life jacket.

"If you do fall in the water you lose that fine motor skill very quickly,” said Lind. “And it's very difficult to attach a life jacket once you've fallen in the water"

You also want to assume a "help" position and tuck in your legs and arms to preserve energy instead of trying to swim and fight the cold water. And if you can, try and stay close to your watercraft. The coast guard also encourages "If Found" stickers which contain contact information be put on all kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards.

"This is a great tool that will save us time out on the water searching and it returns our ability to respond to actual emergencies."

The Coast Guard also recommends filing a float plan, information on where you're going and when you expect to return, with your local marina or loved ones before going out on the water.

For more information on safe water practices and where you can get an "If Found" sticker, click here.

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