MAINE, USA — As we near Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start to summer, many people will be anxious to get out on the water.
While it's going to be a nice weekend to take out the kayak or the boat, Coast Guard and Maine Marine Patrol are reminding Mainers to have fun but be safe.
"Being prepared is absolutely priority one," said Lt. Commander Nick Lajoie, a search and rescue mission coordinator.
"I've been doing this for nearly 20 years and one of the most critical factors if a person survives or not is if they were wearing that life jacket."
Lajoie says people need to remember while the temperature in the air might feel nice the water temperature is cold. Only upper 40's to 50 degrees.
"The instant you enter the water we're flipping a clock and your ability to survive is not all that long."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, roughly 20 percent of people who fall in cold water will die in the first minute due to the cold water shock.
Lajoie says skip the t-shirt and shorts and wear layers. In other words dress for the water temperature...not the air temperature.
"It gives you the ability to survive longer with that life jacket on, wear that life jacket, it gives us the opportunity to come out and save you."
Other things that will help, Lajoie says, carry your cell phone or VHF handheld radio in a sealed plastic bag and let a family member or friend know where you're going and when you'll be home.
"Be prepared and recognize bad things can happen but how you fare is often how you prepare for that incident."
The Coast Guard is also urging people to label their boats. Last year in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, there were 300 cases of unmanned boats and kayaks or that drifted away.
The Coast Guard recommends labeling your boat yourself or picking up an "If Found" sticker from the state or your local harbormaster. That will give the Coast Guard someone to call to determine if you're in trouble or not.