Boating and water safety reminders ahead of Memorial Day Weekend

Officials offer up reminders to stay safe on the water
Officials offer up reminders to stay safe on the water(WEAU)
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 6:06 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources already reported four boating-related deaths in the state this year.

Memorial Day is coming up and the holiday marks the unofficial start to summer.

With the forecast heating up and despite chances of rain, people will likely hit the lakes and rivers this weekend.

As people start undocking their boats, Wisconsin DNR Recreation Warden Jake Holsclaw says to make sure there are life jackets on board before hitting the water.

“You have to legally have a life jacket that fits everybody on that boat,” Holsclaw said. “A Life jacket doesn’t do you a lot of good if you’re not wearing it.”

If alcohol is present, Holsclaw says to have a designated driver.

“The same rules on boats apply as they do in cars,” Holsclaw said. “So you know, people need to not drink and drive a boat, and yeah, get a DD to operate the boat for you for the day.”

Eau Claire Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Allyn Bertrang agrees.

“Mixing alcohol or any other type of controlled substance is never a good idea while doing those activities, just like it impairs our abilities with everything else that impairs our abilities when we’re boating on the waterways,” Bertrang said.

Before taking the boat out, Holsclaw recommends checking the weather.

“Obviously if there’s lightning and issues with that on the water, get off the water,” Holsclaw said. “Lightning does not mix real well with a metal boat or an aluminum boat.”

On other waterways like rivers and ponds, Bertrand says to be aware of the depth levels.

“We never dive into those waters,” Bertrang says. “The only place we can ever really be safely diving is into the diving section of a swimming pool.”

Bertrand adds protecting your feet is also a good idea.

“If you’re tubing or canoeing or kayaking, make sure you’re wearing something on your feet because you don’t know what’s at the bottom of the river,” Bertrang said. “It could be sharp rocks, it could be broken glass. Even things like clamshells can cut your feet really bad.”

Whether you’re boating or doing another water activity, Bertrang says to stay alert.

“There will be other people out there enjoying the water and we certainly don’t want to have more than one watercraft connect with another one on a waterway causing injury,” Bertrang said.

Officials stress the importance of wearing a life jacket and recommend letting someone who’s not in the water know when you expect to return in case of an emergency.

Bertrang also urges people to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Holsclaw says the Wisconsin DNR does offer online and in-person boating safety courses, which most if not all people need in order to operate a boat. To learn more, click here.

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