With nearly 1,500 miles of coastline, four major river systems, and hundreds of lakes and ponds, Massachusetts offers excellent fishing and boating opportunities. As warmer weather sets in, Massachusetts boaters and anglers are eager to take to the water. In honor of National Safe Boating Week (May 22–28), the Massachusetts Environmental Police and MassWildlife remind boaters and anglers to think of safety first when enjoying the water by wearing life jackets, knowing your boating capabilities, and practicing safe social distancing.
The early warm days of spring can mask water temperatures that are often dangerously cold. If you capsize or fall overboard, you can succumb to hypothermia within minutes. Hypothermia is the lowering of the internal body temperature. This temperature drop can make it difficult for you to swim, paddle, or stay afloat. A sudden, unexpected fall into cold water can also cause you to involuntarily gasp and ingest water, which can lead to death by drowning. While most life jackets will not prevent hypothermia, they do help you stay afloat. Wearing a properly fitted life jacket (personal flotation device) could save your life. Many boating fatality victims fail to wear a life jacket.
Boating safety advocates recommend that all boaters and passengers not only have a life jacket, but wear it at all times while boating. In Massachusetts, life jackets must be worn by:
- Canoeists and kayakers from September 15 to May 15
- Youth under 12 years old
- Personal watercraft users
- Stand-up paddleboard users