As the warmer weather begins to stay, more people are spending their days on the water. While marine activities are a great way to stay cool this summer, it’s important to adhere to safety measures to prevent drownings or other fatalities.
When boating or swimming in a lake, it is crucial to check the weather and for water hazards. Anthony Gallegos, Coast Guard response officer at Coast Guard sector Lake Michigan says rip currents are among the biggest causes for drowning. “Out here on Lake Michigan, because of the water temperature, is the danger of rip currents and the wind that causes that. Contrary to popular belief, rip currents pull you away from shore, not under water, and that is the danger of those.”
When swimming, Gallegos says regardless of swim strength lake-goers should wear a life vest and avoid going alone. Additionally, telling others where you are headed and having a working marine radio are also critical. Boaters should tune those radios in to channel 16, which the Coast Guard constantly monitors.
Another available resource are free vessel safety checks by the Coast Guard. Anyone going out on the water can coordinate for their safety gear and boats to be checked.
Despite the popularity of drinking and boating, Gallegos says it’s a bad idea. Gallegos said “The effects of alcohol on the water are amplified with the movement waves and sun beating down. If they are operating a boat, we advise people to not drink alcohol.” Boaters can also receive a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) just like they can a DUI.
Similar safety tips apply to beaches, however, given this years shortage in life guards beach-goers have to be extra careful. The Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Wisconsin Sea Grant, Milwaukee Water Commons and the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center have come together to implement the Beach Ambassador Program. This program, while not meant to supplement for lifeguards, is designed to educate people on beach safety.
Cheryl Nenn, riverkeeper as part of Milwaukee Riverkeeper, says this program came as a response after drownings in 2020. Nenn said “I think a lot of folks that are used to inland lakes come to Lake Michigan and don’t realize the safety concerns we have on our big lakes.” The four beach ambassadors this year will be out educating people between Memorial Day and Labor Day.