Sgt. Jason Luce of the Maine Warden Service gives a thumbs up Saturday as a boater shows that he has a sound producing device aboard his boat on Brandy Pond in Naples. Luce and warden Neal Wykes patrolled the pond and Long Lake to make sure boaters had safety equipment on board. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

NAPLES — Loose lips may sink ships, but according to Maine Game Warden Sgt. Jason Luce, wearing a life jacket can save a boater’s life.

Sgt. Jason Luce of the Maine Warden Service approaches a boat to ask the owner if they have proper safety equipment on board on Brandy Pond in Naples on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Luce and warden Neal Wykes patrolled the choppy water of Brandy Pond in Naples on Saturday as part of National Safe Boating Week, an initiative designed to stress the importance of staying safe on the water, particularly now, as water temperatures barely crest 60 degrees and hypothermia potentially can set in within minutes.

“It’s that time of year. Everybody is getting their boats out. They’re promoting; ‘Hey, just a reminder. The water’s cold, wear your life jackets, don’t drink and boat. Make sure you take all these safety precautions and have a checkoff list. Watch the weather conditions, and be safe,'” said Luce.

And Saturday, most boaters Luce checked had the required items: life jackets, enough for everyone on board; a whistle or something to make sound; a throw cushion; and a fire extinguisher.

In Maine, boaters over the age of 10 aren’t required to wear a life jacket, but need to have one on board in case of an emergency. Some boaters had to spend a minute locating their life jackets; Luce said if they were sinking, even a minute looking could be fatal.

“People knew they had life jackets, but they had to look for a minute … you’re not going to have a minute or two if you’re in the water,” said Luce.

Most boaters who were checked passed inspection, and were waved onward as they braved choppy waters. As Luce approached a group of kayakers, one didn’t have a life jacket in her boat; a big no-no.

Neal Wykes, left, and Sgt. Jason Luce of the Maine Warden Service boat across Brandy Pond while conducting safety inspection checks Saturday in Naples. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

As Luce explained, operators of smaller crafts like kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are at extreme risk should they capsize. Kayaks are harder to get upright after a flip, and this time of year, hypothermia can set in quickly.

“Within a couple of minutes, your arms stop (working), your legs stop working, and without a life jacket you sink,” said Luce. The woman got a warning, and Luce and Wykes headed back to dock. Speaking later, Luce pointed out into the choppy waters of the pond.

“If she’d of been out here, she wouldn’t have been able to get back to shore,” said Luce.

Luce said a lot of boaters have a false sense of security out on the water. Just because you’re in a kayak, Luce said, doesn’t make you any safer. And not wearing a life jacket is a serious gamble.

“With a life jacket, you buy yourself some more time,” said Luce.

Though the waters Saturday were choppy, Luce said Friday was packed with boaters, more-so that previous Memorial Day weekends. Luce said it’s probably because of COVID-19 related quarantine.

Sgt. Jason Luce and Neal Wykes of the Maine Warden Service pull up to the dock Saturday at Moose Landing Marina on Brandy Pond in Naples. Luce and Wykes patrolled the pond and Long Lake to make sure boaters had safety equipment on board. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“Fourth of July is the biggest boating weekend, but this weekend is busier than a normal Memorial Day weekend. I think we have factored in all the COVID-19 stuff. It’s busier than a normal one, since everyone’s been penned up, and the weather has been amazing,” said Luce.

Luce had a few recommendations for boaters who plan to go out Sunday or Monday.

First, make sure you have the required safety items. Also, the grace period extended by the governor in regards to boat registration and fishing licenses is officially over, so remember to take care of those logistics.

He also recommends a GPS and flairs. Believe it or not, bigger bodies of water like Sebago Lake are hard to navigate, and boats can get lost.

Also, if you’re on a motorboat, familiarize yourself with the boat’s emergency cut-off switch to the engine. It prevents the boat from going in a circle and, as Luce said, “cutting up” the overboard person.

And, of course, don’t drink and operate a boat. Though Operation Dry Water, a nationwide operation targeting drunk boaters, officially takes place July 4, Luce said, wardens are always on the lookout.

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