Boating weather’s coming, but there’s danger on the open water
This is the time of year when the weather is starting to warm up in Jersey, but boaters can face extreme, sudden danger.
Lt. John McMahon of the State Police Marine Services Station in Atlantic City said even though the air temperature may be mild, Jersey lakes and rivers and the ocean are all extremely cold, in the mid to upper 40s.
"That’s cold enough where you’re going to get to a hypothermic situation relatively quickly if you go overboard and you’re not properly prepared," he said.
McMahon said “if the water is extremely cold you’ll lose your breath. Falling into the water will force the air out of your lungs and unfortunately a lot of people, when they go to take a breath to get that air back, they may be underwater.”
McMahon said troopers patrolling open waterways in New Jersey wear tactical dry suits, which prevent them from getting that instant chill falling into the water, so they’ll have “the best possible chance of to survive.”
He said if recreational boaters have personal flotation devices on, “at least they’ll be held up on the surface, but if they don’t they’re going to lose their ability to swim effectively and they’re going to go down. In the kind of cold water we have now the muscles are going to become tired quickly, they’re going to become cold and fatigued and then inevitably slip underneath the surface."
McMahon pointed out another danger: Many boats that have been dry docked all winter are now going back into the water, and they may have mechanical or other problems that won’t show up until they're out to sea. Boats canget stuck, which could be dangerous for those on board.
He stressed if you’re heading out in a boat, always wear a flotation device and “always go with somebody else with you on board, have another person there with you so if you do fall in there’s someone that can attempt to rescue you. Things happen very fast, much faster than people realize until they’re actually in that situation, and by then it’s too late.”
He also said most of the time, cell phones are a great form of communication “but on the water you can lose signal with them because there’s no cell towers out over the water so we recommend you have a VHF radio with you.”
He suggested boaters visit the Coast Guard's website, which offers suggestions on what to bring on board whenever you head out in a boat.