Officials Warn About Safe Boating
Lake Champlain Water Temperatures are Deceptively Cold
Two recent deaths in cold waters have prompted safe boating warnings from officials. As temperatures increase this week, officials are concerned about increased recreational use on Lake Champlain, and are cautioning the public to take precautions.
When a canoe overturned on Malletts Bay last week, only two of the three boaters were able to swim to shore. The third man died. None of the three were wearing personal flotation devices (PFD’s).
“People get lulled into a false sense of security when it may be 70 or 75 degrees out, the water temperature is still 44 degrees currently right now,” said Corporal Michael Akerlind, Colchester Police Department. “And it takes a matter of minutes to be exposed to that water before you start losing your fine motor control and gross motor control, your ability to swim, your ablity to stay on the surface goes away just in a matter of minute.”
Cold water is usually regarded as any water with a temperature below 77-75 degrees, so Lake Champlain is considered cold water year-round,
Deceptively Cold Water in Lake Champlain
Although the National Weather Service in Burlington monitors the water level and temperature in Lake Champlain and they make that information available to the public on their website, those numbers can be deceiving.
“Even though we say the water temperature today was 47, there is a lot of upwelling going on where cold water refreshes into the warmer climates and that upwelling temperatures of the lake is only in the mid 30s so there may be one location that is 47 degrees and you just move 5 feet away and the water temperature is 39, so really it is just extremely dangerous this time of year.” said Scott Whittier, National Weather Service.
According to the National Weather Service, the lake temperature won’t hit the 50’s until the beginning of June. Temperatures will hit the 60’s by the end of June, but won’t get into the 70’s until late July or early August. Again officials say make sure you have a PFD with you, preferably on you.
The water temperature of Lake Champlain is still in the low to mid 40’s, which can send someone into hypothermia very quickly. According to the Coast Guard, the water was just 46 degrees when the man died Saturday morning.
Cold Water Safe Boating Safety Precautions
The U.S. Coast Guard has seen a rise in incidents out on the water, especially with paddle crafts and is urging boating safety.
“Being overturned is probably the most common one you see,” said Petty Officer Chris Bowman. “Things can get rough out there pretty quickly and if you’re not aware of what the weather is, what the forecast is, as things turn they can obviously become very precarious for you as well,”
According to Bowman there are precautions you can take to prevent tragedy, including checking conditions before you head out.
“No matter what the situation is, whether it’s bright and sunny out, no winds, whatever it is, wear a life jacket, That extra bit of flotation, even if you go unconscious and into hypothermia, it will help you float. It will keep you alive and maybe long enough for someone to come out and save you,” Petty Officer Chris Bowman said. “The second-best thing you can do is know the conditions around you. Know the water temperature.”
Bowman added that you should always have a float plan in place, letting someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
If the above isn’t reason enough to wear your PFD, you should also be aware that it’s the law.
Wear Your PFD – It’s The Law
Vermont boating laws require that all vessels carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person on board. Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must also have one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type IV PFD on board. Also, children under 12 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II or III PFD at all times while any vessel is underway.