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Heading out on the water? Remember your life jackets

The lure of the outdoors has been particularly strong this year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Fresh air adventures have provided opportunity to escape months of lock down and concerns about the potential for the coronavirus to spread in crowded indoor settings.

And those adventures include trips on the water.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people boating well into the fall months, including many first-time boaters,” said Ryan Walt, boating and watercraft safety manager for the state Fish and Boat Commission.

Walt recently reminded us that, from Nov. 1 through April 30, boaters are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times on boats less than 16 feet in length or on any kayak, canoe or paddleboard on all state waters.

While we have had a number of sunny and warm days of late, those venturing out on the water should be cognizant of the fact that the water temperature drops rapidly beginning at this time of year.

Even on a warm fall day with lots of sunshine, the water can be cold enough to put boaters at risk for a sudden, cold-water immersion.

Also known as cold-water shock, a sudden cold-water immersion occurs when a person is unexpectedly plunged into water below 70 degrees, resulting in an involuntary gasp where water is often inhaled. Panic and hyperventilation often follow.

“A life jacket can keep your head above water until help arrives,” Walt said.

That’s solid advice. Follow it and it just may save your life.

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