PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — The unofficial start of summer is only days away, and many of us are looking forward to something in the water. But, that can be dangerous if you do not do it safely. Officials are stressing the importance of water safety as we head into the holiday weekend.
For Liam McCarver a day off means a day on the water.
“We’re just coming out here and enjoying the day, nice day, good day for fishing. At this time you start to see more action on the water,” McCarver said.
There is even more time to be spent on the water as the holiday weekend quickly approaches.
“Memorial Day weekend is really the unofficial kick-off to boating season, we really see the activity ramp up here,” executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Tim Shaeffer said.
But a relaxing day on the water could lead to trouble if you are not careful. In 2022, nine people died in boating accidents across the state. Just last month, a man died after his boat went over the Dock Street Dam.
“We always know where that dam is,” McCarver said.
“Just like driving down a highway, we have speed road signs, we need to make sure we know the waterway we’re going to be boating on, what obstacles are there,” Waterways Conservation Officer Mark Sweppenhiser said.
“Wear your life jacket,” Shaeffer said.
But that is not a requirement.
Life jackets are only required from November through April. The fish and boat commission may change that, so in future years you would need a life jacket through June 1.
But whether you have to or not, officials hope people choose to use them, especially for kids.
“If they’re under 12, they need to be wearing their life jacket on all boats under 20 feet and all canoes and kayaks.”
The air temperature warms up quicker than the water temperature so you may think oh my gosh, this 70-degree day in the middle of May, that water can still be bone-chillingly cold,” Shaeffer said.
“Make sure you have an anchor that’s suitable to stop that watercraft, so you have time to call some help. Making sure your life jackets are survivable, making sure they are dry-rotted, making sure buckles still work, lights still functioning, making sure the fuel in our fuel tanks is going to be octane enough to make sure that motor is going to stay running for us,” Sweppenhiser said.
Officers will also be out on the water during the weekend to look for signs of impaired boating. The legal limit is .08, which is the same for driving a car.