Dan and Brenda Lapointe of Auburn enjoy a spring day May 17 as they paddleboard on Tripp Pond in Poland. The couple say they learned “the hard way” that Maine law requires paddleboarders have lifejackets with them at all times when on the water. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Maine Warden Service on Thursday urged all boaters to wear their personal floatation devices, abide by the headway speed law and to boat safely as they head into Memorial Day weekend, which signals the start of summer boating season.

“Memorial Day usually is the first time out for many boaters and we want everyone to enjoy Maine’s waters, but to do so safely and responsibly,” Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso said.

“With cooler water temperatures in May, it’s important that boaters wear their PFDs,” Maine Warden Lt. Jason Luce said. “No one expects to find themselves in the water when they are boating, but a PFD can save your life if you fall in.”

Each year, more than 85% of this country’s boating fatalities involve boaters not wearing life jackets, according to a media statement from the Warden Service.

Roughly half of Maine’s boating deaths involve nonmotorized watercraft, such as canoes and kayaks, where the paddler is not wearing a PFD. Even the strongest swimmers lose the ability to stay afloat when immersed in cold water for a period of time, the statement said. A life jacket can keep you afloat until help arrives.

“A life jacket doesn’t help if it is stored under the seat of a boat and you are in the water,” Col. Dan Scott said. “Tragically, each year we investigate boating fatalities where, if someone was wearing their life jacket, they would still be alive.“

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The Maine Warden Service enforces all of Maine’s boating laws and will be on patrol reminding boaters to wear their life jackets.

Wardens also will be looking for violations of Maine’s headway speed law, which requires all motorized watercraft to operate at the minimum speed to maintain steering while within 200 feet of any shore, including islands. Maine’s headway speed law protects boaters, swimmers, personal property, the shoreline from erosion and nesting wildlife.

Before heading out onto Maine’s waters, the Maine Warden Service reminds boaters to:

• Wear a life jacket.

• Do not mix alcohol and boating.

• Be conscious of your boat’s wake.

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• Operate your watercraft at a reasonable speed for conditions and be considerate of other boaters on the water.

• Devise a plan. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

• Be mindful of headway speed areas on Maine’s waters, and obey all boating laws.

• Utilize the boat’s attachable engine cut-off switch, if it has one.

• Make sure your boat is equipped with all the proper safety equipment, including wearable life jackets for all on board.

• Always check the weather before heading out.

For more information concerning boating safety, visit https://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing-boating/boating/index.html for more information as well as for online boating safety courses.


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